Over the last two decades, the deployment and storage of digital assets has grown exponentially. Information technology has extended into our everyday life and the use of digital assets has become so prevalent that they are often utilised on a subconscious level without great consideration to their location, access or monitoring. Administering these digital assets upon death can therefore cause challenges if not dealt with in a considered way.
Before we can begin to understand how best to administer these assets, we first need to assess the type of asset and its impact on elements such as security, privacy and financial drain. Some digital assets, such as stored images and documents are financially benign and are stored either locally or within free online (cloud) storage facilities and are relatively simple for the executor to administer, as long as they are aware of their existence and have the relevant security credentials to access them. Others, such as online banking and internet stores, attract security challenges and some can have an impact on privacy. Lastly, there are digital assets in the form of subscriptions that can drain income from an estate and need to be identified and managed promptly.
One of the first steps in understanding how best to manage the varied forms of digital assets is to clarify the agreement that has been entered into with the individual Internet Service Provider (ISP), such as an online trader, cloud or subscription service. Each ISP will have unique terms and conditions which will impact the way the provision of service works and the way that content can be managed upon death. For instance, ISP’s such as Apple music or Amazon Prime lease their content to the end user. Upon death this content is removed and cannot be passed on. Alternatively, ISP’s such as Facebook promote the nomination of individuals during your lifetime who can manage your account upon death.
The management of Cryptocurrencies can be relatively straightforward for an executor to administer, so long as the assets are known and accessible. Often during life, the Cryptocurrency information can be stored in a “Hot Wallet” (online storage facility), or a “Cold Wallet” (physical storage such as paper file or physical wallet). These wallets can be identified to the executor for administration.
Alternatively, ISP’s such as domain name providers and subscription services need to be identified to ensure the potential continuation of service, if required.
The task of identifying, accessing and managing your digital assets can be extremely challenging for an executor if, during your lifetime you do not take appropriate steps to catalogue your digital assets in an inventory. If your digital assets are substantial, it may be appropriate to appoint a Digital Manager as an executor.
For sympathetic and professional advice on how to deal with digital assets, give our friendly, specialist team at Probate London a call on 020 8017 1029 or send us an email at email@example.com where we will be happy to help.