By Michael Lee, CTVNews.ca Editor
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Toronto, Canada (CTV Network) – More and more Canadians are likely faced with the task of deciding what to do with their digital heritage once they are gone, whether that means protecting their cryptocurrency or leaving their media accounts social in someone else’s hands.
Many big tech companies, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Apple, have ways to allow loved ones to delete or memorialize someone’s account after they’ve died.
But when it comes to financial assets in the digital space, like cryptocurrency, it’s crucial to make sure someone can access them after the owner dies before it’s too late. , says an expert in inheritance and trust law.
“People don’t think about it when they open it, but cryptocurrency is a huge problem,” Jordan Atin, senior associate lawyer at Hull & Hull LLP in Toronto and adjunct professor at Osgoode Hall, told CTV News. York University Law School. .ca in a phone interview on Monday. “The money is gone if they can’t access it.”
Individuals use their private key, like a password, to access their cryptocurrency like Bitcoin or Ethereum. The decentralized nature of cryptocurrencies makes tracing their ownership or performing an audit virtually impossible without the private key.
Entrusting someone with a password is one way, and perhaps one of the only ways, to ensure those assets aren’t lost forever, though even that raises security concerns, Atin says.
“We are at the beginning and despite many thoughts on the subject by lawyers and privacy people and all that, we still don’t have a solution,” he said.
Some cryptocurrency platforms allow people who inherit or become the owner of a deceased family member’s account to access it.
Coinbase, for example, will ask those requesting access to their loved one’s account for a death certificate, last will, and will, as well as a valid government-issued photo ID of the applicant.
Canadian website Bitbuy also has a similar policy.
Another option, for tax purposes, is for a cryptocurrency holder to create a second will stating to whom they wish to transfer their crypto assets in the event of death.
If a beneficiary tries to withdraw money from a bank after the death of the account holder, for example, a government-sanctioned will is required to transfer those assets, and then a probate tax is charged.
Since cryptocurrency does not require a government validated will – all you need is the account holder’s key – a separate will can be written just for this asset, which does not require payment of tax of approval.
Known as the “multiple wills” strategy, Atin says this is often used for assets such as shares in a private company.
Probate or estate rates vary across Canada. In Ontario, for example, it is zero for the first $50,000 of an estate and 1.5% thereafter.
One of the ways users can protect their private keys is by obtaining a cryptographic “wallet”, which can be “hot” or “cold”.
A hot wallet is connected to the Internet, which means that the private keys are stored on an application and kept online, which makes them more convenient to use but also vulnerable to hacking and online attacks.
On the other hand, a cold wallet is completely offline and the private keys are written or printed, or stored on a hardware item like a USB drive. Although not susceptible to online attacks, cold wallets run the risk of being lost or destroyed. SOCIAL MEDIA
With respect to a person’s online accounts, users are reminded that social media is effectively a contractual agreement with a third party and access to a loved one’s information may require a court order.
In 2017, a mother in Ottawa had to get a judge’s order to access her late son’s social media accounts after his mysterious death.
She said she had contacted Google, Facebook and her son’s cellphone provider, but they would not grant her access without a court order.
There’s also the question of whether a user might even want their social media or email content made accessible after their death.
A person could write a digital asset clause in their will that would give an executor the power to manage their social media, Atin says.
But wills are also public documents, he adds, which means a person may not want to put their passwords directly into one.
“So that’s an area that I’m sure will evolve…but we’re going to have to evolve faster than that when it comes to digital assets, I’m afraid,” Atin said.
Ultimately, whether it’s social media or crypto, if the plan after you die is to transfer that ownership to someone else, make sure that person has the ability to get it. .
“It’s a general analysis of the problem, and that goes for any type of cryptocurrency or any type of social media account or digital asset,” Atin said.
“Know what is required for each particular asset you own and make sure whoever will claim it when you die has access to this information.”
Here are the policies currently in place at big tech: APPLE
Apple notes that devices locked with a passcode are encrypted, which means Apple can’t help remove the lock without erasing a device’s contents.
A person can request access to a deceased person’s Apple ID and data using a court order designating them as the rightful heir to their loved one’s personal information.
In some countries, including France, Germany, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, other documents may be used instead of a court order.
Alternatively, a person can still request the deletion of their deceased loved one’s account, which requires the requester’s Apple ID, as well as “legal documentation required for your country or region.”
As an alternative, Apple encourages users to define in their will what personal information stored on their Apple devices and in iCloud can be inherited. GOOGLE
Google says the best way for users to let the company know who should have access to their personal information after they die and whether their account should be deleted is through the inactive account manager.
This includes the ability to create trusted contacts, who may have access to certain data in a user’s account if they have been inactive for a certain period of time.
A request can also be made to close a deceased person’s account and, in some cases, share information with a loved one.
However, Google says it “cannot provide passwords or other login information.” MICROSOFT
Microsoft says that, for privacy and other legal reasons, it cannot provide any account information, such as Outlook, OneDrive, or other services, when someone has died.
A person who knows the credentials of an account can close it on their own.
If left open, an account will automatically close after two years of inactivity. An account can be reopened within 60 days of being closed.
Outlook and OneDrive accounts are frozen after one year and all messages and files stored there are deleted soon after.
Those who need access to an account are advised to consult an attorney and may require a court order.
Subscriptions, on the other hand, are fairly easy to manage after someone dies, Atin says.
Often it is enough to write to the subscription service to inform it of the subscriber’s death or even simply to cancel the subscriber’s credit card. FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM
Facebook’s policy is to memorialize an account after a user’s death, once notified by a family member or close friend.
It also prevents anyone from connecting to it, the company says.
Similar to Apple, a user can create a Legacy Contact that will take care of a person’s profile if they have been memorialized.
This legacy contact will have the ability to write a final message on a deceased user’s profile, view messages, decide who can view and post tributes, and update the profile picture and photo of cover. A former contact can also request the deletion of an account.
Beyond that, requesting an account deletion will require documentation, such as a death certificate or proof that a loved one has died.
Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, has a similar policy, with users able to request that an account be memorialized or deleted. TWITTER
Requests can be made to delete a deceased user’s account. This requires details such as the applicant’s ID and the deceased’s death certificate.
Twitter, however, is unable to provide account access, regardless of a person’s relationship to the user.
If a user becomes incapacitated, for medical or other reasons, someone other than the user may request to deactivate an account. This would require a power of attorney, among other information, authorizing someone to act on behalf of the account holder.
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