New research by the Law Society states that around 25% of those who were surveyed know what happens to their digital assets when they die – so what about the other 75%?
What is a Digital Asset?
In a nutshell, a digital asset is anything that is stored online and comes with a right to use. All accounts you open online such as email, social media, photo and video storage, domain names, websites, and documents you create and store digitally are your digital assets. In most cases these accounts will be password and 2-FA protected and only you will have access to them. But what happens if you die – you may well be the only person who knew they existed?
Digital Assets with a monetary value
You may not be that bothered about the general accounts listed above, but you may have to think a little deeper about how you protect digital assets with a financial value. Like what you ask? Like the balance on your PayPal, eBay or Vinted accounts, gaming credits, any Crypto/Bitcoin and digital intellectual property. You may need to instruct your Will Writer accordingly so that your beneficiaries can access those funds. There is a grey area of course when it comes to some accounts, such as iTunes and Amazon Kindle as you are essentially leasing the content, not buying it. You can bequeath your iPod or Kindle hardware in your Will, but not the contents stored on them. This opens up a whole legal can of worms around your ISP agreement.
Protecting your accounts on social platforms
We probably use them every day; upload photos, share memories, tag our friends, make new and lasting connections with long-lost friends and family. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter hold a lot of personal and often financial information, especially if your business is linked to your personal account. It may be worth considering how these accounts and the data they hold will be dealt with in the event of your death. It would be prudent to state who should have access to them, rather than leaving them on the www indefinitely. Often social media accounts are shut down but by leaving clear instructions they can instead be ‘memorialised’.
What happens if I do nothing?
If you die before detailing any of your digital assets in your Will, it could be possible for your beneficiaries to only find the wider-used accounts they know of and close them down. This may go against your wishes. Conversely, any accounts with a financial value such as Cryptocurrency would be very hard to find and access unless you have left specific instructions in your Will. If you have a family-run business or business partner and associated website, the domain name could expire if the fees linked to the account are in your name, causing the website to be taken down.
Here at Sovereign Wills and Estate Planning, we know how to protect your more visible financial assets as well as the ones your beneficiaries can’t see or don’t even know about. The first step is to clearly identify your digital assets and keep a record of them and begin digital asset succession planning. We’ll ensure that your final wishes are carried out as you want when we draw up a new Will or review your existing Will.
If you’d like to find out more about protecting all of your assets through Wills, estate planning and trusts, contact Sue Byrne for a free no obligation call to see how we can help.