What happens to your digital assets when you die?
Even though we may not consider them to be assets, our digital assets are just as important as physical ones. They may have a financial or sentimental value to you and your family.
Digital assets should be part of your general planning for what happens when you die, or should you loose the mental capacity to manage your own affairs.
What are digital assets?
Most of us access ‘possessions’ on digital devices such as computers, tablets, smart phones and online. They are usually accessed via an account run by a third party e.g. Netflix, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon. These ‘possessions’ include photos, videos, music, ebooks, blogs, movies, emails, social media accounts, games, loyalty points and online bank accounts all of which are classed as digital assets.
Can you gift them to someone in your Will?
Whilst you may think you own these assets, the reality is you may not. When using online services, you will have agreed to terms and conditions which may restrict how you can use the service. You should review these terms and conditions as there may be specific terms on what happens to them after a period of inactivity and in some cases the digital asset may be destroyed. A lot of digital music content is enjoyed on a licence basis, so it is not something that you can gift to your loved one, unlike your vinyl collection!
What should you do now?
– Keep an inventory of digital assets and update it regularly. Of course, this must be done securely and legally.
– Review your Will. Your digital assets can form part of your estate on death and it is important that you leave clear instructions to your executors about what should happen to these assets when you die. Digital assets that have financial value need to be included in inheritance tax forms.
– Should you leave password details with your Will? Giving other people access to your online accounts could breach user agreements and cause security issues. It is not yet binding or enforceable in England and Wales to appoint a digital executor but would your executors have the knowledge to deal with your digital assets?
– Consider backing up your digital assets, for example, by storing your photos on a separate hard drive or disc. Print off hard copies of photos. Remember, your digital content may be owned by online service providers and this may cause difficulties with your executors accessing the content.
This update is for general purposes and guidance only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. You should seek legal advice before relying on its content. This update relates to the prevailing circumstances at the date of its original publication and may not have been updated to reflect subsequent developments. If you have general queries about our updates, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org