Are digital assets in your Will?
The Law Society is urging people to include ‘digital assets’ such as emails and photos in your wills, or risk locking family members out of important online accounts.
Digital assets exist in electronically stored information as opposed to printed information. It is no longer appropriate or sufficient to simply deliver a device such as a smart phone to a beneficiary without first investigating what digital information is stored on that device.
Whether you own a computer, tablet or smart phone we all have a digital footprint which must be addressed and taken account of in our last will and testament.
This is vital in ensuring your wishes are carried out, as there is currently truly little inheritance law in place in relation to digital assets.
Q: What kinds of digital assets are there?
There are two kinds of digital assets, those with monetary value and those with sentimental value.
Monetary value – online bank accounts such as PayPal; Monetary accounts such as ISA’s, life insurance policies and premium bonds; Cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin; Software and applications bought on smart devices; Share trading accounts such as eToro and FXPro; Online betting accounts such as Bet365 and Ladbrokes.
Andrew comments: “so much of our digital assets hold monetary value and if it is not considered or made known how to access such items it will be lost and rendered in accessible by those we care for.”
Sentimental value – social media accounts, including photos, videos and messages; Email accounts; music and book platforms such as Spotify, iTunes and Amazon; Cloud storage platforms such as Dropbox and Google Drive.
Andrew continues: “These may have little financial value, but they have huge sentimental value. Sometimes these items are more important to the family than cash in the bank and really has the most emotional effect. Families may want to protect that information as it can easily be deleted or lost.”
Q: In today’s world we have several different codes and passwords to access various digital assets. What are executors’ rights to these passwords upon death?
A: When we die this information can be hard to find and yet we do not advocate leaving passwords in your will as these tend to be changed and out of date too soon.
We do advocate making a separate inventory of digital assets in your will so at least the executors know where to start.
Q: Do digital companies have to hand these passwords over upon death?
A: Many of our digital accounts hold terms and conditions which stipulate what would occur on an account holder’s death. These terms and conditions are the kind most of us do not care to read but rather agree to in order to access such devices quickly.
In general, tech companies will not turn over your data without your express consent, though some make exceptions for heirs.
It is better to mitigate this by providing such information regarding accessibility in you last will and testament.