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    22 February 2021

    Digital Assets and Wills Q&A

    Technology is a huge part of modern life and our digital assets include everything from photos to online banking and email accounts.

    In our previous article ‘Digital Assets and your Will’, Lauren Crosby reviewed some of the more common types of digital assets which may be included in your Will and the steps you can take to protect them.

    The Law Society has recently urged people to include ‘digital assets’ such as emails and photos in their Wills.   A survey commissioned by the Law Society found that 93% of those who have a will have not included any digital assets in it.

    Interestingly, while there has been a general surge in Will enquiries since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, with people getting their affairs in order, the Law Society research found that just 29% of those surveyed had an up-to-date Will.

    In this Q&A, Lauren considers issues faced by relatives when dealing with a loved one’s digital assets and how a solicitor can help you plan your digital legacy.

    Q. What do you class as ‘digital assets’?

    The term digital assets cover content that is stored digitally. This includes a wide range of items such as online bank accounts, online payment accounts (e.g., PayPal), cryptocurrencies, reward accounts, social media accounts and digital media accounts (e.g., iTunes).

    Others include:

    • Photographs.
    • Videos.
    • Design files.
    • Word documents.
    • Pdfs.
    • Presentations.

    Q. What are the key issues relatives face when trying to deal with a deceased loved one’s digital assets?

    A key issue can be locating the assets themselves, if the relatives are not aware of them or are not aware of email addresses linked to digital accounts.  It is good practice to back up your digital assets such as photographs and passwords and have an up to date record, that ensures relatives will have access to the relevant platforms.

    Another issue is whether the digital asset is owned by the deceased.  For example, some digital media accounts are used under the terms of a licence, meaning that they are not transferable on death.

    Facebook have a legacy contract which enables the deceased user’s relative’s to respond to new friend requests and update the person’s profile picture and cover photo. They can also, with the deceased user’s permission, download an archive of the user’s photos, Timeline posts, and profile information.  Please see ‘What is a legacy contact and what can they do with my Facebook account?’ for more information on this service.

    Q. How can someone include digital assets in their will?

    Depending on the type of asset, it can be left as a specific gift in a Will or a clause can be included in the Will providing the executors discretion to deal with the assets and to decide who shall benefit from them if applicable.

    It is also important to keep an up-to-date list of your digital assets with your Will for your executors, as both our business and personal lives become more dependent with online apps and subscriptions,  and their value, both actual and sentimental.

    Q. What happens to your online subscriptions and digital downloads after you die?

    This depends on the terms of use, however, many digital downloads are used under a licence.  This means that the individual has the right to use the content for the duration of their lifetime but does not own it, so cannot pass the content onto another individual, upon their death.

    Q. How can a solicitor help you plan your digital legacy?

    Digital assets are important to consider and a Solicitor can assist you with this when creating your Will and can advise which digital assets may be included in it and how they will be accessed by your loved ones, when you have passed away.

    Our Wills, Trusts and Tax team take the time get to know you and understand your needs, we make drafting a Will as easy and straightforward as possible.

    To discuss amending or making a Will, to include digital assets please contact the team on 01603 598000 or by emailing probate@steeleslaw.co.uk.

    Will Planner

    By completing our Will Planner you can provide us with all your basic personal details, and it gives you an idea of the type of questions we will ask you. This means we are fully prepared before we meet, and we can create your Will as easy as possible.

    *The information provided in this article is designed to provide useful information on the subject, not to provide specific legal advice.


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