What are digital assets
Unfortunately, there is no definitive legislative definition of a “digital asset” in UK law at the moment.
However when we refer to “digital assets” we are referring to both personal hardware that we own such as computers, smartphones, tablets, digital cameras and e-readers. In addition to digital files or online accounts, we may own or control.
These can range from storage of our digital photos, email and social media accounts to more financially biased accounts such as on-line banking, PayPal and Escrow accounts to digital currencies such as Bitcoin for example.
It also refers to items stored on your computers such as word documents, spreadsheets, files, family videos and practically anything else you may store digitally.
Why should I make provision for them in my Estate Plan
For the majority of us, our digital assets will take the form of treasured photos, family videos or perhaps emails. These could have significant sentimental value to our family and friends when we are gone.
For others, online financial accounts such as PayPal, online gaming, virtual banking or digital currencies may have a monetary value to pass on to our loved ones.
It is also important to remember a lot of your personal, private information could be stored in your social media accounts. Users of platforms such as Facebook or Twitter may have information in their accounts which they may not want their whole family to know about. Equally with online identity theft on the increase, and you no longer able to monitor the use of your digital assets, you could be putting yourself at risk.
What can I leave in my Will
According to the Administration of Estates Act 1925, anything you personally own and is transferrable can be bequeathed in your Will when you die. This can include anything that’s worth money or anything with sentimental value that you own.
o Money in online accounts ie Paypal, Escrow, online gaming, digital currency accounts or money left in online shopping accounts such as Amazon.
o Digital music or photos you own
o Computers, smartphones, tablets, e-readers, digital cameras, flash drives
o Domain names, websites or your blog
o Intellectual property ie trademarks & copyrighted materials.
What digital assets can I not pass on in my Will
Essentially these are anything you “do not own” and in some cases, this will depend on the policy of each particular Internet Service Provider (ISP).
For example iTunes and Kindle only “lease” you the content, you are not buying it so, therefore, you wouldn’t be able to bequeath it.
The same goes for Social Media sites or cloud storage. You are leasing the use of these accounts to store information, i.e. photos. Whilst the content you put there belongs to you the actual account does not. Therefore once a subscription fee (if applicable) is not paid there is every chance the content will be deleted and the account closed.
In this instance, it would be prudent to either keep an offline back up of your content or alternatively appoint a family member with login details and authority to deal with the account upon your death. For Facebook users, you can now have your Facebook account memorialised upon your death. Read our blog “Memorialising your Facebook Account” to find out more.
Making a Digital Estate Plan
First and foremost create a list of all your digital assets including logins and passwords and store in a safe place. There are a number of online safety deposit box providers such as Virtual StrongBox or Certain Safe in which you can store this list along with any other private documentation. The contents are then made available to a nominated person in the event of your death. Alternatively, store a written copy in a safe place.
When creating your list think about who you would like to benefit from the digital assets you own and how you would like your online presence to be dealt with.
The simplest way to leave clear instructions about your digital assets is in a written letter, stating what the asset is, what should be done with it and who should benefit from it. You can store this letter alongside your login list and your Will.
Your executors ( the people you choose to wrap up your estate after you die ) will need access to your online accounts, to fulfil your wishes and/or to pay bills.
Therefore you may decide to appoint a digitally literate friend or family member to be a “digital executor”. This will help ensure your digital assets are dealt with in accordance with your wishes.
For more information about leaving digital assets in your Will get in touch with us at Just Wills and Legal Services 01342 477102 to book a free consultation.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.