What are digital assets and why should you include them in your Will?

On behalf of Attwaters Jameson Hill posted in Uncategorised on Wednesday, October 27th, 2021

If you have a social media account, use an online banking app, or are subscribed to a music service like Spotify, then you are the proud owner of a digital asset.

What are digital assets?

A digital asset is anything that is stored digitally (i.e. in binary format) that you either own or have the right to use. This includes, for example, any photographs, documents, videos and other files stored on your own personal computer, in addition to accounts with websites such as Facebook and Amazon or – increasingly – cryptocurrency and Bitcoin accounts.

Why are they important?

As the digital landscape develops, an increasing number of people own or are investing in digital assets, and an increasing number of those assets have significant monetary (or sentimental) value. Just as you would make plans for transferring your property and belongings on to your beneficiaries when you die, it is becoming equally vital to ensure that the executor of your Will has the information they need to deal effectively with your digital estate upon death.

Despite the growing importance of including digital assets in your Will, just 26% of people understand what happens to digital assets when you die. And, of those who do have a Will, just 7% have included digital assets.  

What could happen if you don’t include digital assets in your Will?

A recent court case perfectly demonstrates what can happen if you don’t make a record of your digital assets for your beneficiaries. When Rachel Thompson’s partner, Matthew, died suddenly in 2015, this led her to become embroiled in a lengthy court case with tech giant Apple for the right to access his iCloud account, which contained photos and videos of the couple and their daughter that were of high sentimental value.

Creating your digital legacy

Here is what you should do to safely record and store information about your digital legacy for the benefit of your executor and beneficiaries.

  • Accurately record the digital assets you own and any passwords your executor will require to deal with your estate according to your wishes. At Attwaters Jameson Hill, we provide our clients with a digital log for this purpose. Obviously, this record will contain extremely sensitive information and should be kept in a safe place – preferably securely online using a digital storage provider or password management service – and not in your Will, as these become public documents after death.
  • Provide instructions for how you want your photos, emails, social media, banking and other accounts to be dealt with upon your death – you can appoint a ‘digital executor’ with some technological knowledge to handle this should this be necessary. These ‘digital wishes’ should be drafted in your Will, or in a codicil if you have an existing Will.
  • Part of good password management involves changing them regularly, so ensure you keep your secure list up to date with the passwords you are currently using.

Make arrangements for your digital life

As we have explored, including your digital assets in your Will could save your loved ones a great deal of stress and heartache when you are no longer with them. To get started on recording your own digital legacy, please get in touch with us on 0203 871 0087 or email wills@attwaters.co.uk.

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