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Who will own your digital photos and other digital assets if you die?
This was the subject of a long and difficult case decided in the High Court only last month when a widow was finally granted the right to access her late husband’s Apple account that contained the photographs of their family life together. There were 4,500 photos and 900 videos. Despite finally obtaining a Grant of Probate, she needed a separate court order to obtain the photo collection. It may seem unbelievable in this digital age that the law relating to all our social platforms and other digital assets in the event of death has not caught up. And in some ways that is because it is not a simple issue to resolve.
In the case of the widow and the Apple account, one of the main problems was that her husband had died without a will. This means that he had not specified who was to be entitled to his photos; not just to own them, but even to access them. Two different issues. And further complicated by the fact that some of our digital assets are “rented” from the providers so that we are only entitled to use the site, as opposed to owning the asset such as, say, a music collection where we have paid for the songs.
But when we remember that The Wills Act was made in 1837, perhaps we begin to understand why there is no specific provision for digital assets.
The best advice that we can give at the moment is that you make a will, and in addition make provision for your digital assets making it clear who you authorise to access your online accounts and other digital platforms.
And keep on taking those photos, but maybe considering printing them and putting in a physical album as back up.
This Editorial is by Melinda Giles at Giles Wilson Solicitors.
For legal advice please call 01702 477 106 or visit one of Giles Wilson's offices: 1711 London Road Leigh, 54 Leigh Broadway, 5 Roche Close Rochford