Following a landmark ruling in Germany last week, people who register a will at the DIFC Courts can pass on social media accounts to their beneficiaries to possibly ensure they are deactivated.
The ruling means that those who elect to German law to govern their will, the ruling has immediate and direct relevance, according to the DIFC Courts.
As lawyers and lawmakers grappling with the legal status of online assets – which also includes grappling with the legal status of online assets – the head of the DIFC Wills Service Centre is urging registrants to include clear instructions in their registered wills.
“Rather than leaving a will silent on such matters, and hope the law will evolve in a way consistent with your wishes, it makes sense to leave clear instructions in your will on who should and shouldn’t have access and ownership to your accounts when you pass away,” said Sean Hird, director of the DIFC Wills Service Centre.
In a DIFC Courts survey carried last year, 89 percent of UAE residents said they would want their social media accounts to be deactivated.
“The surest way of achieving this is through express provisions in a registered will,” said Hird.
“For those who do wish to pass on their accounts, they should consider the practical steps that they can do while still alive to ensure that their chosen beneficiary can access the accounts – for example by allowing passwords or other information to be stored in a safety deposit box, or in a written document held by a lawyer.”
In the case in Germany, the Federal Court ruled that heirs have the right to access the Facebook accounts of deceased relatives, saying a social media account can be inherited in the same way as letters.
The Karlsruhe court decided that the mother of a 15-year-old girl who died after being hit by a train could access her Facebook account to discover if she had been contemplating suicide. The social media giant had opposed the case on privacy grounds.
The ability to register a will at the DIFC Courts is available to both UAE residents and non-residents allowing them to apply their chosen home country law to govern how their personal assets will be distributed after their death.
Without a registered will, assets located in Dubai and RAK will be divided among relatives according to a pre-determined formula, following Islamic sharia principles.
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