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4 September 2020

Digital Assets and your Will

In a world heavily reliant on technology and with almost everyone owning some form of digital asset, it is important to make sure that your attorneys or executors are able to deal with these if you lose capacity to manage them yourself or after you pass away.

In this article Lauren Crosby sets out 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.

Bank accounts

This is one of the most common forms of digital asset and is usually traceable by your attorneys or executor through paper statements, cheque books or bank cards. They are dealt with in the same way as any traditional account.

Each banking institution has their own requirements and conditions and it is best for your attorneys or executors to contact them directly to obtain details regarding the management of such accounts.

Online Payment accounts

Most online payment accounts such as PayPal will be shown on bank statements and your attorneys or executors should make sure that they check with the company to ensure that there is no outstanding balance on the accounts. This can be difficult however if your attorneys or executors do not know the email address linked to the account.

Cryptocurrency

Virtual currencies are typically held in a virtual wallet. Unless you have left instructions on how to access your wallet there is little that can be done to retrieve the assets if you die or lose capacity.

Store/Reward cards

Many of us hold some form of store or reward account, whether it is with a supermarket, fuel company, airline or hotel. What happens to the value held on any reward cards when you die or lose capacity depends on the company they are held with. For example, some companies such as Tesco Clubcard will allow a member to inherit their deceased family member’s points or vouchers. On the other hand British Airways will cancel any Member, Avios Tier and Lifetime Points that are unused at the time of death.

Digital Media accounts

When we download items such as digital music and films or e-books many of us would consider that we then own such items and can pass them on to who we wish. However this is not always the case and many subscription services such as iTunes and Amazon Kindle only provide the individual with a limited licence to use the item. This means that they have the right to use the content for the duration of their life but do not own it and so cannot pass it on to another individual. The terms of Apple iCloud which stores photos, videos, music etc. also state that an account is non transferable and your rights to your Apple ID and contents end on death.

Social media

Whilst it may not be top of the priority list to be dealt with after a loved one passes away, not all social media accounts are automatically closed after a period of inactivity and so may remain open indefinitely. Some social media companies such as Facebook and Instagram allow a page to be memorialised after a person has passed away, meaning that the page can still be viewed and provides a space for friends and family to share messages. Facebook also allows you to choose a legacy contact to look after your account when you pass away; they can choose whether to close or memorialise the account and will be able to make decisions about your account once it has been memorialised.

So what can you do to protect your digital assets when you lose capacity or die?

At Steeles Law we recommend that you should keep an up-to-date list of all your online accounts (all of which may have value), such as:

  • Email
  • Banking
  • Investments
  • Social networking sites
  • Details of any computer game characters
  • Music and films
  • Internet domains registered to you
  • YouTube Videos
  • Bitcoins

These should be kept with your copy Will at home as this will make it easier for your executors to recover or close them. It is important to keep your wishes under review and update them regularly.

If you would like to speak to a member of our specialist Wills, Trusts and Probate team about protecting your digital assets or making a Will, please do not hesitate to contact us on probate@steeleslaw.co.uk or by calling  01379 652141.

*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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