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Last week, the Globe and Mail mentioned the case of the Grant brothers in Britain. Patrick Grant had inherited his mother’s iPad but not its password. Apple would not disclose the password, and neither a death certificate nor a copy of the Will seemed to matter to Apple. At the last minute, saner heads prevailed and Apple provided the missing password.

This case is not unique. People have passwords for online banking and for many other assets and stored information. Passwords also change. All of this makes it very difficult for executors to ensure that they know where the deceased’s assets are and to gain access to them. Trying to convince an internet provider that an executor has the authority to deal with a virtual asset is sometimes very challenging.

Online or virtual bank accounts are more popular, and access to a deceased’s online banking information (including her or his password) becomes a problem when the online bank account contains the only cash assets that can be used to pay the Ontario Estate Administration Tax. While there are ways to navigate around these issues, it is easier if they are not present in the first place.

We recommend that an individual prepare and maintain a list of updated passwords. These passwords should be stored in a manner that is secure, but that can also be accessed by the individual’s personal representative. 

For more advice on how to deal with your digital assets, please contact our Wills and Estates group.

This content is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion as neither can be given without reference to specific events and situations. © 2021 Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP.

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