When preparing a will it is easy to think that you have identified all your assets. Most of us think about our physical assets when we do this: property, valuables, stocks and shares, pension pots, cash, etc. However, with the increasing reliance on digital systems we often forget about those additional assets which can be very valuable for many. This month we take a look at what these digital assets can comprise and how they can be taken into consideration when preparing your will.
What are digital assets?
A digital asset is anything that is stored in a binary format – in other words electronically – and which you have the right to use. Examples include:
- Email accounts
- Social media accounts
- Websites and domain names in your ownership
- Accounts that hold monetary value, such as PayPal or Amazon which hold credit in your name
- Stores of photos, videos, and other documents
- Bitcoin or other cryptocurrency accounts
What can be passed through a will?
Anything with a monetary value can be passed through your will. This will include things such as funds in your PayPal account or things that you have purchased, such as digital music. However, you should check that the licensing agreements to such items allow for them to be passed to your beneficiaries. Your website and domain name may be able to be transferred, but again check that the licensing agreements allow for this.
What cannot be passed down?
Anything that you use that is licensed to you. For example, your social media accounts or email, or any subscriptions you may hold. These cannot be passed on as you do not own them outright.
How can you ensure your digital assets are not lost?
The simplest way to ensure that any assets that you hold are not lost, particularly those which are non-transferrable, is to create a list of your username and passwords to pass on to your beneficiaries. Giving them access to your accounts will enable them to download those items that are important – for example, photos, digital documents, or social media accounts. Having access to your social media accounts for instance will enable your loved ones to create a memorial to you – if that is what you want – or to shut them down if that is your preference.
Depending on who your chosen executor(s) is/are, you may wish to consider appointing a particular person who is more tech-savvy or digitally literate and able to navigate their way online. It is important to leave log-in details for your executors, otherwise they have no access to your accounts. Even if you explicitly give them authority over your digital accounts there is little provision in law to allow them to access them without the proper passwords and they could encounter a lot of resistance from digital providers.
When compiling your list of online access details ensure that it is stored with your will and in a safe place where it cannot be found. Do not keep it at home; should your home be burgled you could end up losing all your digital assets and funds to theft. Leave it with your solicitor or in a safe deposit box.
For advice on what constitutes a digital asset or for assistance on including them in your will get in touch with us at IWC Probate Services. Call or email us for a chat or to make an appointment on 020 8017 1029 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.