Digital Assets – What happens to them upon death?

As the world is becoming more digital, have you thought about what will happen to your digital assets when you pass away? You may have more digital assets than you think, so it is important to know what they are and what will happen to them.

What is a digital asset?

The term "digital assets" refers to the possessions, such as content, account or media you store and access on a digital device such as a laptop, mobile phone, tablet or personal computer. Some have monetary value, such as Crypto currency, loyalty points, or betting accounts, and others have more sentimental value such as photographs and videos.

Examples include:

• Social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok

• Email accounts like Gmail, Hotmail, Outlook

• Online bank accounts like PayPal or Credit Unions.

• Loyalty points such as Tesco Clubcard

• Online storage such as DropBox, iCloud or Google Drive

• Online auction sites such as eBay, Gumtree, Etsy, Vinted

• Cryptocurrency e.g. Bitcoin

• HMRC, electoral services

• iTunes, Amazon, Kindle/eBooks and Spotify

What happens to my digital accounts and assets when I die?

This area is relatively new and there often unclear as to how those assets are owned. Your digital assets were probably not at the forefront of your mind when thinking about your Will and who would inherit under it. The best advice is to plan ahead to avoid the loss of any sentimental value or financial data.

Many digital assets are actually owned by the individual online service providers, so accessing them can prove difficult for your loved ones. For example, if you use Google to store your photos digitally, whilst you own the account and any digital photos stored within the account, you do not own the storage facility i.e. their cloud services.

Since an online service provider may not allow access to your account by third parties, you’ll need another way to back things up. In that case, it would be a good idea to keep hard copies of your digital assets, including putting them on a disc/USB stick if appropriate so that family members do not lose any items of sentimental value.

Some social media platforms allow for accounts of a deceased to be memorialised whereby the account is frozen so that no one can log into it. Only verified friends and family can then see the deceased's profile or locate it in a search. Friends and family can post comments to the deceased's page in remembrance of them.

How should I plan to deal with my digital assets?

It is important to review what digital assets you have in order to preserve them. Make a list of them including the usernames and passwords. You should make a hard copy of this list and store it securely. You can even provide a copy of the list to the Executors of your Will. It is recommended that you review this list and update it as often as necessary.

You may wish to include information in your Will which gives your Executors the power to decide who should inherit your digital assets. You may have a more ‘tech savvy’ family member who might be better suited to dealing with your digital content than your other Executors – in which case you may wish to appoint a ‘digital Executor’, who handles only the digital assets accumulated during your lifetime.

Any private details about your accounts should go into a letter to be sealed and kept with your Will, it should not be documented within your Will as your Will is a public document once probate has been obtained.

If you own any Crypto-currency you should note down details held in any digital wallets and arrange for the details to be stored securely. You may want to include a specific legacy in your Will to deal with your crypto holdings. This will also help to alert your Executors to the holding so that they can take action after you have died to secure control and to include it within your estate.

If you would like to discuss your digital assets and planning for their protection within your Will, please contact our experienced team today and we would be happy to discuss this with you.