STEP (The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) have launched a series of scorecards to grade cloud service providers on their legacy provisions. This forms part of their wider awareness campaign arising from the 2021 report Digital Assets: A Call To Action (my post on that report can be found here: Digital Assets and Estate Planning.)

Sometimes these cloud accounts (think: your Google account, your photos backed up on your iCloud account, your Instagram and Facebook accounts...)  (or what is stored on them) are referred to as "digital assets". That is not, however, a particularly helpful phrase as it implies that there is something there that we each own and that will endure after our deaths. 

In reality, the terms and conditions of service providers often provide that on our death the account will simply come to an end and any data will be deleted. Some providers have systems that monitor inactivity while others will sit dormant but inaccessible. A family member then trying to access that account may then be in breach of those terms and conditions by trying to login. 

Increasingly, and with encouragement from campaigns such as STEP's, the importance of the data stored in these accounts is being recognised. Sometimes the data may have monetary value that can be realised (an unfinished novel or information to access Bitcoin trading accounts) but often the value is sentimental in the photos or posts a person has made during their lifetime. 

Some companies now provide the ability to nominate someone to login to your account on death to retrieve information that might be stored there or for someone to be able to 'archive' or 'memorialise' your account. 

There is no single system that covers all cloud providers so it is important to consider each you may use. This should form part of any regular reviews for your wider estate planning to ensure that you are up to date on what your options are with each company and who you may have nominated to have access.