New STEP tool helps inheritance advisors prevent their clients losing access to precious digital assets
Research launched by STEP, the professional body for inheritance advisors, found that leading cloud service providers have work to do to improve their legacy settings.
- Digital assets have become a common part of modern estate planning and estate administration, with demand for advice expected to increase significantly.
- STEP’s new Digital Legacy Scorecard rates the legacy settings for ten major cloud service providers.
- All ten of the providers we rated had room for improvement.
STEP’s Digital Legacy Scorecard rates a range of cloud service providers on their legacy provisions – that is, the extent to which they have catered for what happens to their users’ accounts in the event of their death or incapacity.
The Scorecard rates providers on a series of basic requirements including:
- Having clear and publicly displayed criteria for determining what events trigger an account to be deemed inactive.
- Making provision for account holders to pre-determine options that allow access for a designated recipient or a fiduciary in the event of death or incapacity.
- The amount of information and publicity present in the platform to promote user awareness of this type of planning feature.
STEP’s expert panel initially assessed ten providers: Amazon; Apple; Coinbase; Dropbox; Facebook; Google; Instagram; LinkedIn; X (Twitter); and Yahoo.
While there are some encouraging examples of good practice – with Facebook and Google scoring highest – the results demonstrate that more needs to be done to improve legacy functionality across the board.
Of the service providers rated, none currently meet all of our basic requirements. In general, there is a lack of a comprehensive approach and incapacity is largely left out of the express provisions and the handling of the distribution of digital assets. With an ageing population and increasing incidences of dementia, for example, this is clearly an area that needs attention.
Mark Walley, Chief Executive of STEP, said: ‘Improving legacy settings will enable millions of customers to plan for what happens to their accounts at death or if they lose capacity.
‘This can save loved ones from the distress and frustration of not being able to access these digital assets, which may have sentimental and/or financial value, and can also help to mitigate against the possibility of cybercrime or identity theft.
‘We are already discussing our work on legacy settings with LinkedIn and Twitter. We are calling on all of these service providers to work with us to better support their customers to plan their digital estates.’
The full ratings and further details about how the Scorecard was developed can be found at: https://www.step.org/digital-legacy-scorecard