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Date
01 June 2015

Mishcon Thinks: Digital Legacy

In this short film, part of the Mishcon Thinks series, Partner and Head of the Trusts and Estates Disputes group, Mark Keenan, discusses these issues with Michael Hayman MBE of Seven Hills.

Transcript

Mishcon Thinks

Digital Legacy

Michael Hayman MBE
Seven Hills

Mark Keenan, partner at Mishcon Private, tell us what is a digital legacy?

Mark Keenan
Partner, Mishcon Private

Well you have your digital assets which could be your bank accounts or your Paypal account and then you have your digital presence which is your YouTube account, your Facebook account or perhaps a Twitter account.  Your digital assets will have a financial value, your digital presence will have an emotional value.

Michael Hayman MBE
Seven Hills

You’ve described it as a new frontier, why?

Mark Keenan
Partner, Mishcon Private

Well I just think that we have service providers who are based in various jurisdictions, they are looking to protect their own interests, people are simply not reading the terms and conditions which they are signing up to so they are giving away assets without really knowing what they are giving away.  iTunes is a good example.  People will think, many people will think that they have a quite valuable music collection.  What they in fact have is simply a licence to use that music while they are alive.  That does not pass to your beneficiaries on your death.

Michael Hayman MBE
Seven Hills

So when you are dead you have to give it all away?

Mark Keenan
Partner, Mishcon Private

Absolutely.

Michael Hayman MBE
Seven Hills

No sort of gramophone collections for future generations?

Mark Keenan
Partner, Mishcon Private

Sadly not.

Michael Hayman MBE
Seven Hills

Putting digital legacy aside isn’t there a bigger problem?  64% of people in the Mishcon de Reya survey don’t even have a Will?

Mark Keenan
Partner, Mishcon Private

Well I am obviously going to say they should be making a Will.  There is a real problem with people focusing on death understandably but the reality is if you don’t it does lead to a greater likelihood of a dispute once you have passed away.

Michael Hayman MBE
Seven Hills

So if I was thinking about today what can I do?  What should I be thinking about to avoid this type of confusion and this type of potential dispute?  What would you say are the big things that I could do now?

Mark Keenan
Partner, Mishcon Private

Well I think the first thing is obviously to make a Will so that will make you focus on what assets you actually have, where your digital presence is.  Prepare a letter of wishes which sets out what you want to happen on your death in relation to your on-line presence.  We are seeing these disputes about memorialising accounts.  Do you want that?  Tell your family, your executors what you want to happen.  Keep those records updated.

Michael Hayman MBE
Seven Hills

So the letter is not part of the formal Will?

Mark Keenan
Partner, Mishcon Private

No, no because there are some things which you don’t own so your on-line presence you may have given it away for example, the photographs you share on Facebook they are no longer yours so it is only a letter of wishes and some of these providers will allow you to nominate what you want to happen to them but it is not … it’s still a very grey area.

Michael Hayman MBE
Seven Hills

So what is the consequence of dying without a Will?

Mark Keenan
Partner, Mishcon Private

Well the obvious one is you don’t get to say where you want your assets to go so if you haven’t got a Will in this country certain rules apply; the intestacy rules.  That dictates where your assets go, it dictates who administers your estate.  It also causes delay and delay increases costs.

Mishcon de Reya