Heritage is a legal concept which may be defined as compilation of asset, rights and obligations belongs to a natural person and which are to be transferred instantly to the his/her heir(s) within the same moment with decease of the owner.
Heritage is one of the main assurances of right of property, it provides and secures continuity of private property. Fundamental feature of heritage may be traced back to the times when family concept become a building block of society. During the Roman Empire, not individuals but families owned property via Pater Familias (latin word for family man). Whereby, assets own by a family member remained as the family's property even after the death of him/her. This system has limited individuals' free will and prioritized family. Many years later, following the evolution of the individualisation, individuals have become more authorized to determine the next owner of the property they own while they are alive. A libertarian movement of thought argued that individuals should have full authority to designate their heirs.
As of today, a combined system is preferred in various country's legislation which prioritize individual's determination, including Turkish Civil Code1 ("TCC"). According to this system, individuals may decide on who to leave their assets, rights and obligations by writing a will or designating an heir. However, TCC provides a protection for certain family members in any condition to benefit deceased's heritage.
Scope of the heritage is, as it's mentioned above, rights, obligations and property of the deceased. Property is described in Turkish law, as a material of physical asset, which has an economical value and excluding people and animals.
One of the general rules of property law, any personal rights are not suitable for any legal transition. In other words, following the decease of a person, as a rule, the transfer is possible to the heirs of private law relations; however, personal rights cease with death and may not be transferred on to the heirs.
Article 599(2) of TCC mentions real estate and other property rights, claim rights, possession of movables and immovables and obligations to be transferred to the heirs as heritage. In this article, rights and obligations to be transferred has not been regulated as numerus clauses. Therefore, rights haven't been mentioned in the Article may be transferred through heritance, i.e. intellectual property rights may be transferred to the heirs.
Concept of property has evolved throughout the years, especially within the last decade, in line with the occurrence of technological and digital developments effecting daily life majorly. The term digital property has emerged from this development process. Nowadays, digital property constitutes at least as much value as non-digital property. Social media accounts, audial and visual media documents, crypto currency accounts, domain names, game characters, e-commerce web sites may be included to the scope of digital property.
In the framework of Turkish legislation, digital property or digital heritance has not been defined or regulated under any law. Nonetheless, this shall not constitute an issue regarding digital heritage since property types are not limited with the TCC. Therefore, it's possible to include digital property to a will or designate heir regarding digital asset.
Digital heritage hasn't been regulated in any foreign legislation as well, but it's possible to encounter the concept in various foreign court judgements. As of today, Some of international social media platforms offer their users an option to choose a legacy contact to manage their account following their death, even this is not a legal procedure, it shows that digital heritage shall be examined in the near future as a legal matter.
Considering the history and nature of legal concepts and law, most of the times changes in society and daily life has leaded major alterations and adjustments in legal areas and formed law systems. Improvement of property concept has been essence of law since the very beginning of law.
In conclusion, even digital property and digital heritance has not been subjected to any legislation or court judgement in Turkey yet, but it is expected to become a type of asset which is automatically transferred to legal heirs when owner passes away, even it's not stated in a will. And even today, digital property may be subject of wills and heir designations by the declaration of the intent in a will by deceased.
1 Turkish Civil Code dated 22.11.2011 and numbered 4721, published in the Official Gazette dated 08.12.2011 and numbered 24607.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.