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Leaving Digital Assets Through Your Will

View profile for Sarah Finnigan
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We live in a digital world where many of us rely heavily on technology to carry out even simple everyday tasks such as shopping and banking. 

Digital assets are something that we all own – whether you use a smartphone, tablets or a computer you will have some form of digital assets.  Although everything is fine whilst you are alive have you considered what would happen if you passed away and no one could access your assets?

Whilst you might not have given it much thought before or think they don’t have any monetary value digital assets fall into three categories - financial, social or sentimental value.

What Are Digital Assets?

  • Bank Account – e.g. PayPal
  • Share Trading – e.g. Stockbroker, online gambling
  • Virtual Currency e.g. cryptocurrency
  • Content Holders – e.g. iTunes, Amazon, Spotify 
  • Cloud Storage e.g. DropBox
  • Social Media Accounts – e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn etc
  • Email Accounts - Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail etc
  • Blogs containing Intellectual Property
  • Government departments e.g. HMRC, LPA
  • Websites and Domain Names
  • Online Gaming

Why should Digital Assets be included in a Will?

The Law Society carried out some research last year which revealed that 93% of people do not leave digital assets in their Will, meaning that relatives could experience problems accessing password protected information which may be required for probate.

Whilst many Internet Service Providers (ISP) have different policies the law hasn’t really caught up with technology.  For example digital assets with a financial value will form part of your estate and will legally pass onto your beneficiaries but some digital assets may not be owned by you personally so will not be transferable.

Services such as iTunes, Spotify etc are licensed to you but the licenses will terminate on your death.  If you do not specify what should happen to these online accounts in your will, then this could cause problems for your executors.  Not only will they have trouble tracing or accessing accounts, but there is also a risk of online fraud and abuse. 

Specialist Will Solicitors Advice on Digital Assets

Sarah Finnigan, Wills, Trust and Probate Solicitor advises: “Making a list of all your digital assets which are exclusively online is a really good idea.  By having a think about how you want them handled in your will you may save a lot of heartache for your family, for example social media accounts contain a lot of personal information which you and your family may not want to stay online after your death. 

You can use your Will to govern who manages deactivation and the memorialising of your online social presence. We can help you decide which ones to include in your Will and how to go about it most effectively.”

She adds, “Digital assets which have financial value can be left to whoever you choose, so it’s good to have a think about how you want these to be managed by considering who you would like to access the accounts and who will inherit their value. 

For digital assets which have sentimental value, such as your iTunes account or YouTube channel, you may prefer to download your music library so that all is not lost when the license is terminated, whatever the terms and conditions of the ISP." 

Our specialist Will Solicitors can take full details of your online presence and advise you how best to ensure your digital assets are effectively managed and protected in your will if you are unable to manage them yourself.

For further information on the digital assets clause in wills, please contact Sarah Finnigan or our Will Solicitors on 0161 785 3500 or email enquiries@pearsonlegal.co.uk

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.