This month, Chaanah explains why your will needs to reflect the digital side of life…
What happens to my digital assets when I die?
Like it or not, an increasing number of documents and possessions are now held online. What happens to them when you die is something you need to consider.
When making or reviewing your will, it is important to leave clear instructions about what your loved ones should do with these intangible resources. Just because you can’t touch them doesn’t mean they’re not there.
The definition of ‘digital assets’ is broad and covers all accounts and files created and stored online or on devices, such as computers and smartphones. For example, it would encompass blogs, like this, artwork and photography, gaming accounts, email and social media. The modern versions of our traditional assets, such as online bank accounts and trading or payment accounts, including eBay and PayPal, are also covered, as is cryptocurrency, Bitcoin.
Keep a digital directory
We recommend you keep an inventory of all online accounts, along with user names, which should be updated regularly. It is not advisable to store passwords with this information for security reasons, but it gives your executor a clue to the existence of assets, should anything happen to you.
When the time comes to dissolve your estate, your executor should refer to each service provider’s terms and conditions, so as not to inadvertently break the law.
Some digital assets have very obvious monetary value, i.e. online bank and store accounts, but others may be worth something in terms of their intellectual property rights. A separate clause in your will is often worthwhile to deal with these resources and ensure they are administered correctly, potentially by separate executors to the rest of your estate.
Assets that are not ‘owned’ by you, but are merely licenses to use a website’s services, iTunes for example, are not usually transferrable and will terminate when you die, meaning they don’t form part of your estate.
Many digital assets have more sentimental than financial significance, but it is still important to include them in your will. It raises new challenges for probate specialists, as the law tries to keep pace with our appetite for online services.
To find out more about protecting your digital assets, you can contact me on (0114) 218 4000 or email email@example.com.