Have you included your digital assets in your Will?
Posted on 24th November 2021
It’s a new question for our technological age – what happens to your digital assets when you die?
A collection of family photos taken with a smartphone or documents on a computer might have sentimental or monetary value. You might own the intellectual property rights to ideas, creative work, or a website for example.
There isn’t a legal definition of a digital asset but generally any personal property stored digitally online, on a computer or other device could be included. Accounts on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter could also have social value.
Access to digital assets
Content - it would be easy to store and pass on printed photos, video tapes anddiscs, and documents when someone dies. Now even these might be scanned and stored digitally. Without the relevant passwords for devices or accounts it can be difficult for family members to access them. They might not even know these assets exist.
Online accounts - many smartphone users save their data in cloud-based storage which is password-protected for privacy and security. Normally user accounts can’t be transferred and rights to the content end when someone dies.
Licenced content - you don’t own personal online libraries you might have with iTunes or Amazon books, for example. These are held by licence so the material they contain can’t be transferred.
Licence fees - some things, like website domain names, are available for a regular fee. If the fee-payer for a web address for a business website dies there’s a risk it could be sold to someone else if the licence lapses. This could have a financial impact due to loss of traffic to the website and conversion into sales, and the cost of printing new stationery and changing vehicle liveries with a new website address, for example.
Online accounts - access to online accounts such as email or social media will depend on the terms and conditions of different internet service providers. They might not allow digital assets to be transferred when someone dies and might not allow passwords to be shared.
Account conditions - each social media account provider will have a different procedure for managing an account when the owner dies. They might allow a page to be archived, to be managed by a trusted contact, or it might simply be deactivated. Unfortunately, the approach isn’t consistent so executors will have to deal with them on a case by case basis.
Cryptocurrencies - Bitcoin and other digital currencies can be more difficult to find and transfer than traditional investments when someone dies. With less regulation, someone’s investments are normally stored in an online wallet accessed through a series of codes. If you don’t have their account details there isn’t an option to reset a password like other online accounts, so these assets could be lost entirely.
If you would like some advice about how to include your digital assets in your Will please get in touch.
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