Why you need to include digital assets in your Will?
22 February 2021 by Sarah Rankin
Last week’s Law Society Solicitor Chat looked at digital assets, following survey findings from a Law Society commissioned research which found out that 93% of those who have a will have not included their digital assets. In this blog article, Sarah Rankin from the FJG’s Wills, Life Planning & Probate team has provided some answers to a few frequently asked questions about digital assets and Wills.
What are considered ‘digital assets’?
A broad term used to describe assets in the ‘virtual world’ i.e. a Twitter account, electronic records, social media accounts, digital photos, email, online financial account, bitcoin.
What are the key issues relatives face when trying to deal with a deceased loved one’s digital assets?
Because they are ‘virtual’ and may not be any papers associated with the asset – identifying them is a key issue, then after that, access and transfer of the asset – if that is possible. In the absence of knowledge or clear instructions relatives do not know what to do or how to access these. It is a good idea to ‘back up’ your digital assets i.e store photos on a hard drive, disk, or print out hard copies. Keeping a secure, clear, up-to-date record of the assets and the usernames and passwords ensures relatives are able to access these.
How can someone include digital assets in their Will?
If the digital assets have a monetary value, they can be included as part of your Estate and therefore in your Will if you own them – i.e funds in a PayPal account, funds in an online store (Amazon or Etsy), bitcoin, digital music or photos. You can include a schedule of these assets in your Will packet (stored alongside your Will and can be updated frequently) so the executors are aware of them at the time of your death. If you wish for a specific beneficiary to receive these, they can be named in the Will, otherwise, they will pass to the residue beneficiaries named in the Will.
What happens to your online subscriptions and digital downloads after you die?
We may think we own, but we don’t – we have agreed to terms and conditions in a service agreement. It depends on the company and their policies – if the digital assets are licensed, it depends on the terms of the agreement and whether this allows transfer at death. i.e. a domain name or a copyright. Some digital assets cannot be passed i.e. those that don’t have a monetary value – your email and social media accounts (some companies have a system of memorial pages), subscriptions accounts like Netflix or Spotify. These are owned by online service providers, not by us, and therefore cannot be passed by your Will.
How can a Solicitor help you plan your digital legacy?
It is important to leave clear instruction for all your digital assets after you die.
A Solicitor can give advice as to how best to include both physical and digital assets in your Will, ensuring your Estate is inherited exactly as you wish and preventing a whole load of problems landing on loved ones after your death when they are grieving.
Contact FJG to make or update your Will
FJG have an experienced Wills, Life Planning & Probate team who can assist you in getting your affairs in order. We can store your Will free of charge and can update your digital assets schedule regularly if you provide this to us. Any information stored with us is confidentially held until your death. FJG can also act as your executors in your Will to provide a professional service that removes any burden for your spouse or family member in closing down or transferring these assets in the administration of your estate.
The team have continued making Wills throughout the Coronavirus pandemic under their free Wills initiative; where Wills are put together free of charge in return for a donation to charity. If you want to make or update your Will, please contact FJG’s Wills, Life Planning & Probate team, call 01206 700113, or email [email protected].