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Cyber Law - what happens to your bits & bytes when you die?

NZ $35.00
Gareth Abdinor 2015 Bianca Mueller
Gareth Abdinor
Associate, Taylor Shaw
Bianca Mueller

Authors: Gareth Abdinor, Bianca Mueller
Published: 21 September 2015
Pages: 23


Over the past 20 years technology has become indispensable in our everyday lives. At work we communicate with our clients and customers through our websites, blogs, emails, calls over the internet and text messages. We bank online, shop online and manage our various utilities online. Even if created with pen and paper, we tend to scan and digitise our confidential information and intellectual property and store it on computers, servers and in the “Cloud”.1

Outside of work we create and maintain relationships through social media and through internet forums, we communicate with family and friends by email and we store our photographs on our computers, digital storage devices and in the “Cloud”.

We create digital identities, both professional and personal, online. Increasingly, the line between our digital and physical lives disappears.

But what happens to the numerous legal relationships with social media, email and Cloud storage providers and the associated data once a user dies?

While the need for estate planning is well known, it’s surprising how little attention has so far been given to what happens to all of our digital assets when we die.

Managing the digital assets of a deceased person poses unique practical and legal challenges and legal practitioners need to be able to advise their clients proactively on how to manage their digital estate. Since New Zealand does not have a specific legal framework for dealing with such situations, it is important that your clients are prepared for all eventualities.

In this paper we will explain some of the digital legacy issues that arise when managing a deceased’s digital estate. Heirs and executors, in particular, face practical challenges in gaining access to online accounts of the deceased. It is therefore important that heirs and executors are being given clear instructions as to how to deal with the deceased’s digital assets and online reputation and identity.

In doing so we will highlight the complex interplay between succession, privacy, copyright, and contract law, and aspects of international law.

1 In basic terms, Cloud computing or storage is where users (whether individuals or organisations) store and process their data in third party data centers.

Content outline

  • Meaning "Digital Assets"?
  • The status QUO - how non-digital assets are dealt with when you die
  • What types of digital assets do people have today?
  • Risks of ignoring digital assets in estate planning
  • Practical solutions and considerations
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