What happens to my digital assets when I die
August 27, 2020 | Wills

What is a digital legacy?

Your digital legacy is essentially all of the digital information and property that is left behind on your death.

Astonishingly, the latest Digital 2019 report, from Hootsuite and We Are Social, shows worldwide we are spending on average 6 hours and 42 minutes online each day.  That is just over 101 days online every year!  As a result of all this time spent online, we are simultaneously accumulating a growing number of digital assets.

What are digital assets?

There is currently no legal definition in the UK for digital assets, but they can broadly be split into two categories.

CATEGORY 1 – Digital assets that have financial value, such as loyalty points, intellectual property, travel rewards, cryptocurrency, gaming tokens and the digital business assets (such as domain names), and

CATEGORY 2 – Digital assets that have sentimental value such as digital photos and videos, cloud storage and social media accounts.

When I die who will own my digital assets?

With physical property, possessions, money and investments, it is easy for the executor of your estate to provide proof of death and take control of those assets when you die.  Digital assets, however, present more of a challenge.

This is because your digital legacy may be owned by you or the online services that you use. Each online service has its own end of life policy and if you fail to follow this, it can be very difficult for your family to gain access to your digital assets after your death.

What are the risks of not having a digital assets plan?

Without a digital assets plan, you risk your digital assets being overlooked on your death resulting in financial loss to your estate or the loss of precious photos and other personal information.

There is also the risk that even if your family do know about a specific digital asset, they may still be denied access if you have not followed the service provider’s end of life policy.

What can I do to take control of my digital legacy?

Step 1:  Create an inventory of your digital assets

Before you do anything else, assemble a list of your digital assets and accounts with usernames.  You will want to store this list in a secure location, for example alongside your Will.  As with your inventory of non-digital assets, remember to update this frequently.

Step 2:  Understand your rights

Once you have your list of digital assets, your will need to do some research to understand the policies for each of the online services you use.  These policies will set out exactly what you own and who so has access rights to your digital assets.

For example, Apple’s terms of use give you a licence to play the music you purchase in iTunes, but not the right to transfer your music library one your death.

We have incorporated links below to some of the most popular online services and their end of life policies.

Step 3:  Make a plan for each digital asset

Once you have found out what restrictions are in place for each digital asset, you can set out exactly what you want to happen.  For example, should an account be closed, memorialised or transferred?

Step 4: Appointing a digital executor

Finally, you may wish to update your Will to expressly appoint a digital executor granting them express powers to access, control, delete or transfer your digital assets.

How can I find out more about each digital asset holder’s procedures?

We shave ought out and provided links below to the end of life policies of some of the most popular online service providers:

*  Google allow you to appoint an individual who can gain access if your account is inactive for more than 3 months.

*  Facebook allows your family to request that the company memorialise or remove your account.

*  Dropbox will provide access to your folders on receipt of proof of death and evidence that the executors have the right to your digital assets.

*  Quidco can provide access to your cashback on sight of a Grant of Probate.

*  Microsoft and Apple are both providers who take privacy very seriously. They both have strict rules on accessing deceased accounts.

If you would like to discuss updating or making a new Will considering your digital legacy please click here for our contact details or visit our Will page. We would be happy to help.

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