Digital Assets: game over – death in the digital age
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
- 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.
For further information please contact Richard Monkcom – firstname.lastname@example.org or Alice Johnson – email@example.com.