Digital assets and your will
Our lives are becoming increasingly digital, so how do we protect our online belongings in our Will?
Technological advances in the last twenty years or so have meant we find ourselves spending more time online to manage day-to-day tasks such as shopping, banking, and talking to friends. Whether you own a computer, a tablet, or a smartphone, it is likely you have some form of digital footprint.
Now that we store more of our lives online than ever before, our Wills need to reflect this too. Digital assets are something that most of us own, but are also likely to be the last thing to think about when writing a Will.
Some of these assets have monetary value, while others are purely sentimental. Whatever their value, it is important you keep an up-to-date list of all of the places you hold online accounts and assets, and have instructions in your Will as to what to do with them in the event of your death.
Below, we detail what exactly digital assets are and how to protect your digital legacy.
Types of digital assets
There are many types of digital assets and each individual will have different circumstances. The below are some of the online assets we regularly see:
- Online bank accounts, including PayPal and other payment services
- Other monetary accounts like ISAs, life insurance policies and premium bonds
- Online betting accounts - Bet365, Ladbrokes
- Share trading accounts - eToro, FXPro
- Virtual currency/Cryptocurrency – Bitcoin
- Airmiles points from frequent flyer schemes
- Loyalty card points
- Bought software and applications
Sentimental or Intellectual Property
- Social media accounts, including photos, videos, and messages
- Email accounts
- Online music or book platforms - Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, eBooks
- Cloud Storage platforms - Dropbox, Google Drive
- Online auction platforms and shops - eBay, Gumtree, Etsy
- Domain names and websites
- Blogs and designs containing intellectual property
- Government accounts – HMRC, Electoral services
These assets cover a broad range of websites and platforms. Some assets will be simple to transfer over or close, such as bank accounts, while others may be a little trickier to arrange. Often, it is the photographs and sentimental assets that mean the most to your family once you are gone.
It is also worth noting that many of the above platforms will operate on a licence basis. When you sign up for Spotify or iTunes, for example, you consent to a licence agreement, meaning only you can use their platform and files cannot transfer ownership when you die. This was brought to light in 2012 when Bruce Willis fought Apple over the right to leave his iTunes library in his Will to his daughter.
How to protect your digital assets
Having so many different online assets can quickly become confusing. Having an up-to-date list of all of the places you have assets and their passwords can help you keep track of everything you own digitally. For ease, you can store these passwords securely on systems like 1Password or LastPass.
The Law Society then recommends you leave clear instructions in your Will about what should happen to your digital assets after your death. This is vital in ensuring your wishes are carried out, as there is currently very little inheritance law in place in relation to digital assets.
To do this, you will need to ensure that your loved ones, and the executors of your Will, are made aware of the existence of your online accounts. You also need to give them legal authority to access them. For this reason, we recommend that you choose someone very close to you who you trust.
Each online platform will also have different terms and conditions relating to when you die, so it is worth checking their policies. Facebook, for example, has a “Memorialisation” option, where a close relative can request that your profile be “memorialised,” which locks and freezes the account forever. In order to do this, you can create a Legacy Contact on the Facebook platform who can manage your page after you die.
If left dormant after your death, many platforms may simply delete content and profiles after a number of years. This can mean a potential loss of photos, messages, and documents.
The notion of digital assets is continually changing, and it can often be a little confusing when thinking about them in relation to your Will. If you have any questions about including online assets in your Will, our Wills & Probate team are on hand to provide advice.
How can Percy Hughes & Roberts help?
At Percy Hughes & Roberts, we understand the importance of having an up-to-date Will to avoid all of the headaches that your family may be put through after your death. This is particularly true for the growing area of digital assets.
We have a team of expert Will writing solicitors who are ready to help you start writing your Will to combat any of these unwanted consequences. In addition to this, if you have an existing Will we can update or amend it to include any forgotten about assets.
If you need assistance with writing a Will, making a change to a Will, or simply want general advice, our Wirral Wills solicitors have a wealth of experience.
Contact Percy Hughes & Roberts
To speak to a wills and probate law solicitor for advice, contact Percy Hughes & Roberts for a no-obligation phone consultation today. We provide ourselves on offering expert advice that's easy to understand, and we will be with you through every step of the legal process.
Call us on 0151 666 9090, or fill out an online enquiry form to arrange for us to get in touch at a time that's suitable for you.