Legal News | 21.10.21
How to deal with your digital assets after death
Digital assets have become part of everyday life; for many of us they play a large role in both our work and social lives. However, have you ever considered what you would want to happen to your digital assets after your death?
What are digital assets?
Digital assets include, amongst other things, email accounts, social networking profiles, photos, domain names and cryptocurrencies. While some of these assets have a financial value, others may be far more important to you simply because of their sentimental value.
Some online services that you might consider to be digital assets (digital books and music streaming services) are in fact classed as a licence which ends on the holder’s death, therefore these assets cannot be passed on to others when you die.
Dealing with digital assets on your death
A recent Law Society press release confirmed that of those surveyed, only a quarter knew what would happen to their digital assets when they die. As a result, many people do not deal with their digital assets appropriately when planning for death. This can leave your executors and family members without access to online financial information, family photographs and other important documents.
How digital assets can be dealt with will depend upon the terms and conditions of the company that holds the assets, but as a general rule:
• Digital assets with a financial value can be dealt with under the terms of your Will as you would any other financial asset. If you hold any form of cryptocurrency, these normally require a password or private key to obtain access and there are strict rules about sharing these details. That said, you do need to make sure that your executors can access the relevant information after your death so that the asset is not lost. Your executors will also need this information to discharge their duty to report all assets with a financial value to HMRC for inheritance tax purposes.
• Digital assets with no financial value do not need to be included within your Will. Instead, you could leave a letter of wishes containing instructions for your executors. This letter might explain how the assets should be dealt with after your death, e.g. social media accounts could be kept open and memorialised or shut down.
How digital accounts are accessed after your death varies from company to company, so do check whether you need to take action during your lifetime to nominate someone to deal with these matters after your death. For example, Apple has recently introduced the concept of appointing ‘Legacy Contacts’ who will be able to view and download your data including photos, emails and notes after your death. The appointment of a Legacy Contact must be made during your lifetime and will only be activated after your death, once a copy of your death certificate has been provided to Apple.
If you have digital assets that are held on licence and therefore can’t be transferred to a beneficiary upon your death, you might want to collect together any favourite photos, videos and other cherished items and store these on a memory stick or online platform and start sharing them with a friend or family member now so that they are not lost in the future.
If you would like more information about making a new Will or reviewing your current Will to ensure that it covers your digital assets, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.