When writing a Will, you will consider what assets you own and who you would like to pass these to. This list of assets will usually include your home, your savings, investments, and personal possessions.
But have you thought about your digital assets?
Do you have digital assets?
It is increasingly more common for clients to own digital assets.
Although there is no specific legal definition of ‘digital assets’, in practice it is usually interpreted to mean any object that is stored digitally and has a monetary or sentimental value.
This would include digital photographs, email accounts, internet domain names, social media profiles, PayPal accounts, and Bitcoin, amongst others.
Most people will have some digital assets.
New research released by the Law Society in January 2021 showed that only a quarter of those surveyed knew what happens to their digital assets when they die. Indeed 93% of people did not consider digital assets at all when making their Will.
In a world which is increasingly digitalised, it is essential that everyone takes the time to consider what would happen to their digital assets if they died.
What issues arise with digital assets?
With physical property, possessions, money and investments, it is easy for the executors to provide proof of death and to take control of those assets on death.
With digital assets it is more difficult.
Your digital assets may be owned by you or by the online service provider that is used – it will depend on the service agreement you signed when you acquired the digital asset. For many people, that agreement will not be something that you have read – it is all too easy to just ‘tick the box’ and continue without considering the detail.
To make it more difficult, each online service provider can have different policies. For instance, the terms are different for LinkedIn, Facebook, Google, and Twitter.
Do you know the differences, and have you planned for your executors or family to have access to your digital assets after your death? Imagine how upsetting it would be for your family not to be allowed to access any of your photographs.
Why should Apple users take action in relation to digital assets?
Since Decembers 2021, Apple’s Digital Legacy feature has allowed people to choose the specific individuals (up to five) who will be able to access their account after they die. Apple users can read more information about this here.
This is an important development in the world of digital assets. It provides users with a unique solution to the issue of the succession of your digital legacy.
Advanced planning is required – none of us know when we are going to die, so as a matter of good practice it is advisable for every Apple user to take this opportunity and engage with the Digital Legacy feature. It can be found in the Settings section of an iPhone, under the password and security menu.
As a word of warning, if an Apple user does not choose to set up a Digital Legacy, Apple may require your executors to obtain a court order to be able to access your digital assets stored with them. This could cost your estate thousands of pounds.
Good news for Apple users, but what about everyone else?
If you don’t use Apple products, each service provider has different policies in place.
There are five steps you may wish to take:
- If you do nothing else, you should make an inventory of your digital assets so your executors know what you have. You should keep a copy of this document with your Will.
- You may wish to download any digital assets (for instance, photographs or documents) that are stored digitally onto an external hard drive so that you can store these in an accessible location. This would need to be updated periodically to ensure that the external hard drive is up to date.
- You may wish to consider the terms and conditions and/or service agreements for each of your digital assets to see if they specify what will happen to the information stored there after your death – you should ensure you are happy with the process and make changes if you are not.
- If any service provider offers a service of memorialising your account after death, make sure that your executors know what your wishes are in this regard, especially if there is any particular message you wish to leave for friends or family.
- It is possible to utilise the services of a password manager online, to facilitate access to your digital assets by your executors/family. You may wish to consider such arrangements.
How can we help?
If digital assets were not considered when you wrote your Will, it might be time to review the arrangements you have in place. Keeping you Will up to date is an important and ongoing task.
If you have queries about your digital assets, do get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to help you. Contact us by phone on 0118 40 50 131, or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.