Have you thought about what might happen to your ‘digital assets’ on your death?
In an increasingly digital world, the issue of what might happen to your digital assets you die is becoming increasingly common. Digital assets can take many forms, and include your electronically stored photos, music or videos and emails and social media accounts accessed on your computer or mobile phone usually via an online account run by a service provider. You may also access various assets and services via online accounts such as banking, insurance, utilities and pension funds.
Why is it important to plan what will happen to my ‘digital assets’ when I die?
Digital assets form part of your estate on death, and it is important to leave instructions to your executors for what should happen to these when you die. Not all digital assets can be inherited. Family and friends may need access to your documents and photographs to avoid records being permanently deleted and lost forever. Your executors will also need to access information about your assets to contact the relevant organisations on your death. In some cases, intellectual property law may apply.
How can I plan ahead?
Different digital assets may be treated differently when you die. Here are some tips for planning ahead:
- Review what assets and information you hold digitally in online accounts and on your devices. Compile a secure list of logins and passwords and update it regularly. Tell your executors where this list is kept (without telling them what’s in it!)
- Check online account terms and conditions to find out what will happen to assets on death.
- Consider choosing a nominee to take control of certain aspects of your online accounts, where available (Facebook and Google currently offer this).
- Give written instructions to your executors or chosen nominee if you would like any social media accounts to be closed or memorialised.
- Print off hard copies of online accounts or download documents/photographs onto an external drive for safe keeping.
- You may wish to leave photographs and videos as part of a general gift of personal possessions or as a specific gift in your will.
- Create hard copy albums of photographs of particular sentimental or monetary value, or of any particular music you wish to be played at your funeral or memorial service and keep it with your records.
- Make a note of the details of the public and private keys held in any digital wallets for crypto-currency and store the details in a secure place.
- Think about including a separate legacy in your Will with separate executors with the expertise to deal with intellectual property rights attached to particular assets and crypto-currency.
- Is there any sensitive or confidential information stored in your emails? If so consider deleting this during your lifetime. Print off emails and keep them in hard copy if they hold valuable content and consider any intellectual property issues.
- If you run your own business it is very important to plan for what will happen to business emails and other information held online after you have died to ensure business continuity. Consider who may need access, and whether a hard copy of any sensitive business information needs to be stored.