What is the Digital Legacy Scorecard?
STEP’s Digital Legacy Scorecard is a system for rating cloud service providers on their legacy provisions – that is, the extent to which they have planned what happens to their users’ accounts in the event of their death or incapacity.
The Scorecard assesses the level of difficulty of getting timely access to a user’s account in the event of their death or incapacity, based on the service provider’s Terms of Service Agreement.
Why is this needed?
A key finding in STEP’s 2021 research report, Digital Assets, A Call to Action, was that estate practitioners and their clients were increasingly struggling to access and close digital accounts on the death of a family member.
This is leading to distress and frustration. Cybercrime and identity theft is at an all-time high. In addition to the sentimental and financial value of these accounts, closing accounts that may contain sensitive information is an important step in the estate administration process.
A major part of the challenge is that cloud service providers all have different terms of service. Some address what happens on death or incapacity, to varying extents, and some have no provision at all.
STEP is working to increase awareness of this issue with service providers and the public. The Digital Legacy Scorecard seeks to define and encourage best practice in this area.
- How does the Digital Legacy Scorecard work?
The Scorecard rates service providers in two stages. The first is a series of basic requirements that include:
- Having clear and publicly displayed criteria for determining what events trigger an account to be deemed inactive.
- The provisions for account holders to pre-determine options that allow access for a fiduciary or designated recipient in the event of death or incapacity.
- The amount of attention and publicity present in the platform to promote among the users the awareness of this type of planning feature.
Service providers that include either a planning tool or a simplified process for access by fiduciaries then qualify for getting into the second stage – the merit section of the Scorecard. There are three merit levels:
- Bronze level: Sufficient communication and explanation of legacy options of a user’s account.
- Silver level: Additional support is offered by a service provider in accessing a user’s account, such as consultations or access channels for fiduciaries/advisors.
- Gold level: A fully integrated platform that covers all aspects of estate planning and the administration and distribution of a user’s account at both incapacity and death.
To advance to the next merit category, a service provider must meet all of the requirements in the prior merit category in order to progress to the next.
The Scorecard is a living tool and our aim is for the categories analysed and the rating system to evolve as this area develops.