Is the digital era making our lives much simpler and easier? Well, not necessarily when it comes to completing your Will. When we think about making our Will, very few of us realise that digital assets can be included.
With the emergence of Bitcoin for instance, it may be that this type of cryptocurrency will become more popular over time. Also, with more and more online banking and share portfolios being held online, it is important to give adequate information to your Executors to enable them to trace these and know how these will be dealt with upon your death. You don't want valuable accounts to become lost in the digital ether.
Not only is it important to consider digital assets with monetary value, but it is likely that you will have at least one social media account, such as Facebook or Instagram. What would you want to happen to these when you die? Will your Executors know all of your social media accounts you have and how to access these?
With online banking, online shares and items of sentimental value, such as photographs, now being held online, the key question is whether we actually own these digital assets. Financial assets should be safeguarded for your estate, but many assets may not be able to be passed on to your loved ones when you die. This is because you only buy the rights to use the files in your lifetime. However, some other accounts (such as loyalty points) can be passed on if certain procedures are followed as set down by each account provider.
Although providers are getting better at setting policies for what happens to accounts on a person's death, there is no standard procedure and no automatic right to pass on a digital asset. This is very much an untested area at present but will, with time, become more and more common. With that in mind, it is important that you read the terms and conditions of your accounts to find out what would happen to each particular asset and what your executors would require to gain access to your accounts.
Due to various license agreements which may be in place for photos and videos stored online for example, it may be that you do not have the rights to these items, but, instead have access to them. To ensure that these priceless memories can be passed on to the next generation, it is important to think about backing up these items so that you, and your loved ones, can access these.
Protecting your digital legacy
Protection is key when it comes to these digital assets in order that your Executors know where to find them and how to access them when administering your estate.
When making your Will, draw up clear instructions to be attached to your Will , or included in a Codicil , about what should happen to your social media (such as Twitter), online photographs and other online accounts upon your death. For instance, you may wish some assets saved whilst others could be deleted.
Although leaving a record of what you wish to happen to your digital assets upon your death can be helpful, you may also wish to include a digital assets clause in your Will. This could allow your Executors the discretion to decide who should benefit from any digital assets or you may wish to leave certain digital assets to named beneficiaries. This is particularly relevant with social media accounts such as Twitter and Facebook. For example, with a Facebook account, your family may wish this to be closed down and, if you have left clear instructions, it will be easier for your Executors to have it closed. Of course, it is worth bearing in mind that each account provider will have their own protocols to follow when it comes to the closure or transfer of accounts.
Forgotten your password?
Another thing to consider is the storage of the relevant account passwords and usernames for each asset. These should be recorded in order that the accounts can be dealt with appropriately and in accordance with your wishes. This information could be written down and stored securely in safekeeping with your solicitor or with your nominated Executor whilst you are still alive (take care with this however).
The comments and advice in this blog are also relevant to your Power of Attorney deed and authority given to your Attorneys to access and manage your digital data during your lifetime .
Should you wish to discuss your own situation, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our team who would be more than happy to assist you.