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Domains Names After Death And New South Wales Law

April 2, 2018

Laws relating to accessing digital assets, including domain names, after a person passes away or is incapacitated are to be examined by the NSW Law Reform Commission.

"In today’s hyper-connected world, an unprecedented amount of work and socialising occurs online, yet few of us consider what happens to our digital assets once we’re gone or are no longer able to make decisions,” says New South Wales Attorney General Mark Speakman .

Digital assets can include photographs, videos, emails, online banking accounts, cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin, domain names, blogs and even online gaming accounts.

Mr. Speakman stated the situation can lead to confusion and complexity when tragedy occurs as family, friends and legal professionals are then left to wade through issues relating to digital asset ownership - and having to work within laws that were developed well before the age of the Internet. 

Aside from the cost and time involved, this can mean additional stress on top of what is already a traumatic event. 

Currently in Australia, there are no laws that directly address access of trustees or family members to a person's digital assets upon the event of their death or incapacity.

The Commission will delve into the prospect of developing legislation designed to regulate who can access the digital assets of a person who has died or is incapacitated and consider  relevant NSW, Commonwealth and international laws; as well as policies and terms of service agreements of digital service providers.

“The Law Reform Commission will also look at whether additional privacy protections are needed in situations where a person hasn’t made arrangements for anyone to take control of their social media or access their private emails,” said Mr. Speakman.

The Commission is seeking input from all sections of the community and is inviting submissions. You can learn more about the review and how to make a submission here. The deadline for submissions is June 1, 2018.

Whether you're in New South Wales or elsewhere in Australia, have you given thought to what will happen to your domains if you should pass away, particularly your Australian domain names?  While it may seem rather straightforward to perhaps just stipulate who they will go to in your will, there are a few important issues to bear in mind.

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