It is a fact of modern life that we all spend a lot more time online, either for business, personal or social reasons.
Most people who are active online will have some form of digital asset, whether this is photographs or music stored online, or online bank accounts, paypal accounts or bitcoin investments. Most of us don’t have anything physical record of these assets and so planning ahead, for what will happen to these assets when we die can be difficult.
An estimated 25 billion pounds worth of UK assets are held in digital form.
The first problem to think about is whether or not we own the content. With social media accounts and music accounts, we merely have a licence to use those services and so, technically, do not own the contents. If the digital assets are owned by you, then they can be left to someone else in a will.
Historically, when people pass away, there is usually some physical record of their assets, whether this is a bank statement or a building society passbook. This is very often not the case with digital assets, as we log onto accounts online and keep our own records of passwords. It is usually not a good idea to keep written records of account details and passwords for security reasons. Additionally, some online providers require passwords to change periodically and so these records very quickly become out of date.
It is important to leave your executors clear instructions about what should happen with these assets when you die. You should review your digital assets regularly and consider keeping a note of these assets with your will, or a record elsewhere, for example on a memory stick or hard drive with a note as to where this information is stored. You should also review the terms and conditions of any providers, to check if there are specific instructions for such situations.
Dealing with digital assets is a relatively new phenomenon, and so there is no set procedure for dealing with these assets, and currently no right or wrong answer as to how to deal with them.