Recently there has been an ever-increasing interest in how digital assets are dealt with when we die.
“Digital assets” is a broad term that includes a range of electronic records — from social media accounts to digital photos, to email and more.
So, who owns and can access your social media accounts, photos and email content after you’re gone? And what type of digital assets can you pass through your Will? In many cases, these assets are indeed our assets and we have the right to do with them as we wish. So, it would be fair to assume that this includes passing them to our loved ones when we die.
Does my Will already cover digital assets?
Many people wrongly assume that they will be covered by a personal possessions clause their Will. However, for Wills executed on or after 1 October 2014, the definition of personal chattels includes all tangible movable property owned by the testator except business assets, investments and money. Digital assets are not tangible. Therefore you need to deal with them separately or extend the definition to include them as part of a personal property gift in your Will.
Value of digital assets
This can be divided into two categories, those that have a monetary value and those which have a sentimental value.
At first glance it is easy to see that bank accounts, share accounts and betting accounts for example, have a monetary value and are relatively straightforward to transfer and access. The challenge is that they are not always visible and where do you start looking for them?
One possible solution is to keep a log of assets with passwords to enable them to be accessed by a third party if you are unable to.
Websites and domain names may have significant value and depend on subscriptions to maintain otherwise they will be lost.
Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, which are not part of any bank as they work independently and as an encrypted service, are impossible to access without access to the necessary accounts and wallets.
eBay trading accounts or YouTube channels that bring an income can be passed on as assets.
Many small businesses that operate from home use a computer to keep records which will include day to day data to ensure the smooth running of the business. Likewise, many people keep work or work related data on their home computers, these too might of course need to be accessed.
This would include photographs, personal emails, blogs, and social media accounts. All irreplaceable and therefore priceless in terms of sentimental value. If these accounts remain dormant they will be lost forever.
Legal difficulties in sharing passwords
You may be thinking if I tell someone my password then problem solved – that’s not quite the case. Anyone who doesn’t have the proper authority from the individual may find themselves in breach of the terms and conditions of a company. The whole electronic data storage system is complex, particularly if the company operates from outside the UK.
Some digital asset providers will allow changes – for example:
- Facebook – Allow accounts to be migrated to a ‘memorial’ account
- PayPal – the account will be closed on presentation of a death certificate and/or Grant of Probate
- iCloud – Account terminated and content deleted
When you are thinking about your digital assets and what will happen to them in the event of your death these are a few of the things you should consider:
- Which of your assets are exclusively online?
- Make a Digital Asset Log – Remember to Include anything and everything on your log as this ensures all assets are accounted for and they are not lost completely.
- Prepare written instructions about what you want done if you were to die or are unable to manage yourself. – e.g. memorialisation or deletion of content.
- Draft a Will that makes provision for the management of digital assets
Contact us for further advice on 01792 468684 or email email@example.com. We can advise you on the best course of action for your individual case.