Summary: Technology is moving faster than the law so each service provider has their own set of policies in the event of the death of a member and many act on a case-by-case basis which can make it difficult for executors. In general the executors are requested to provide proof of death and proof of relationship to the deceased to close the account and some platforms give the option to keep it open but as a memorial where photos can still be viewed and comments posted.
Social media during the coronavirus pandemic
Now in our fourth week of lockdown, it is clear the Coronavirus pandemic has caused disruption to everyone's daily routine. Despite the unsettling uncertainty surrounding the current situation, lockdown has afforded many people the luxury of time: time to spend with their families; time to invest in a new or existing hobby; or perhaps time consider and grow a new business venture.
Social media platforms, such as Instagram, Youtube and TikTok, have seen a surge in activity in recent weeks as people use them to keep in touch with loved ones and maintain their physical and mental wellbeing, but could these accounts also become your most valuable asset?
Can I make money from Social Media?
Social media influencers are individuals who have established credibility in a specific industry, for example fashion, cleaning, baking, nutrition or workouts. They have amassed an online audience and using their profiles can guide and persuade their followers to buy products. Due to their influence and reach they have become an imperative part of many large companies advertising agendas.
Instagram allows influencers to explore multiple streams of potential revenue, whether they want to build a brand, earn some extra money or receive free items. A recent article claimed that each follower is worth £0.0033 and therefore popular accounts could be worth thousands of pounds. By way of an example, cleaning sensation Mrs Hinch currently has 3.3 million followers which might equate to as much as £10,890 alone, with each sponsored post earning additional income on top. She has established a career out of sharing low cost cleaning tips on Instagram.
It does pose the question, in this day and age, whether a person who has built up a "digital" business online, and made a career out of brand sponsorship and collaborations should be afforded the same treatment afforded to those who build a "traditional" business, allowing them to leave their most valued asset to those closest to them?
Can I leave someone my instagram account in a Will?
Whether it be online banking, online shopping or social media, nowadays it would be unusual for someone to die without leaving some sort of digital footprint. However, when creating a Will people rarely think of their digital assets or social media accounts.
Technology is moving faster than the law so each service provider has their own set of policies in the event of the death of a member and many act on a case-by-case basis which can make it difficult for executors. In general the executors are requested to provide proof of death and proof of relationship to the deceased to close the account and some platforms give the option to keep it open but as a memorial where photos can still be viewed and comments posted.
Recent press articles have indicated that influencers are able to transfer their lucrative accounts to their friends and families in their Will. Instagram have however commented that this is against their policy, stating that the account of a deceased person cannot be transferred and used for profit. This process has not yet been tested and it is unclear how the transfer would be facilitated to implement the legacy in the Will.
How can you get your digital assets in order?
It is advisable that until such times as digital assets are treated the same as tangible assets, anyone with an online presence should treat both sets of assets equally. They should keep a list of all online accounts with passwords and leave instructions on how each digital asset has to be handled. This information should be kept up to date and stored in a safe place.
We're here to help
If you would like to know more about how to deal with digital presence after a death, please get in touch with our private client team using the form below or call one of our offices on:
Elgin: 01343 542623
We have solicitors and offices across the country in Glasgow (next to Glasgow Central Station), Edinburgh (next to Haymarket Station), Inverness, Thurso, Elgin and Shetland, ready to help in person or over the phone.
We can provide the assistance you need to protect your assets and your loved ones. This will allow you to put your mind at ease, knowing everything is in hand.