Digital Inheritance: Heirs’ Right to Claim Access to Online Accounts under Estonian Law
Keywords:digital inheritance, principle of universal succession, right to exclude inheritability, inheritability of online accounts, contracts with online service providers, access to digital assets, access to the personal data of a deceased person, post-mortem data protection
As we have moved more and more of our life onto the Internet, issues of digital inheritance have become all the more topical. The article takes as its main research question whether an heir is entitled to claim access to digital assets of the deceased and to exercise rights arising therefrom. In practice, many providers of Internet-based services, all over the world, seem to be of the opinion that the answer is ‘no’. The article focuses on analysing the topic from the perspective of Estonia’s applicable inheritance and data protection law. Also, comparative law arguments drawn from consideration of German case law and legal literature are applied. The authors examine two examples of Estonian online services – an online ticket sales service and an e-invoice management portal – and conclude that Estonian law does not grant the respective service providers a right to deny heirs access to the accounts.