The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the shift towards a more digitally enabled world. The sheer number of digital assets and online accounts has multiplied, to a point where individuals may not even be aware of the number of accounts they possess!
Contrary to popular belief, these digital assets and accounts amount to not only monetary value like your online banking, digital wallet accounts, payment wallets, and cryptocurrency. Digital assets like your photo/video storage, notes, social media accounts, subscription accounts and emails are worth a lot more in emotional value. All these together are what is called a digital estate.
As your digital estate holds value, it is important to protect these digital assets today, as well as think about what happens to them when you are not around anymore. Creating a digital inheritance plan for what happens to these assets after you’re gone is what is called digital estate planning.
So, are there any laws in India that can help you plan for your digital estate?
Well, at the moment, the legal scope of digital estate planning is almost nonexistent in India.
An understanding of IT within the legal arena in India arrived only recently with the Information Technology Act, 2000. And unfortunately, this Act is applicable to all digital assets except “testamentary, disposition and wills.” And the Indian Succession Act 1925 does not include the online realm.
This means that India has a long way to go before the law catches up with digitisation and you have a legal way to pass on your digital assets.
So, while we realise that there is a need for special legislation for the estate planning of digital assets in India, the Digital India Campaign and Steering Committee Report are small steps in the right direction.
But what should you do now?
Don’t worry, the lag of the law is not a complete hindrance to your online estate planning.
While the legal development in the country runs its course, you can use online estate planning tools like Clocr to create a digital will for your digital assets that is compliant with your country’s current laws, which will be updated as and when they change.
Even if you might not be able to legally pass on your digital assets, you can still choose what happens to them. Fortunately, many service providers have legacy policies for their services. For instance:
- Facebook allows you to delete or memorialise or set up a legacy contact for your account
- The income-tax department lets your legal heir file tax returns online
- Paytm Payments Bank Ltd. allows your legal heir to claim money after your death
- Google allows you to choose what happens to your account if you were to pass on and even make requests for a deceased person’s account