Mar 06 2019

Digital Assets

General News

As technology develops, so too does the way in which we live our lives. Increasingly, we are moving away from face-to-face interaction to a digital online presence and the same is true for the way in which our assets take form.  It is important to note, however, that the way in which these assets are dealt with won’t necessarily be the same as your tangible assets.


What are digital assets?

You will no doubt have one or more of the following:

  • Online music albums
  • Photographs in an iCloud account
  • Email and social media accounts, such as Facebook or Instagram
  • Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin
  • Online bank accounts
  • Gaming characters or worlds


Whilst these all fall under the broad term of being digital assets, they can be further divided into categories according to use and ownership, which will, in turn, determine what can happen to them on death.


Ownership or Licence

The first thing to establish is what you own and what you are merely licensed to use.  Clearly, funds you hold in an online bank account or as cryptocurrency will be yours and be dealt with in a similar fashion to that of your bank account held with your high street bank. Your music collection, your social media accounts isn't something which you own and accordingly, are unable to leave under the terms of your Will.  In the days of CD players and more recently iPod, you might have been able to physically transfer these to your intended beneficiary. Or, with any online account, you could pass on your passwords which would then allow them to listen to the music or access the content. However, this risks breach of the user agreement or the terms of use.  The terms of the agreement will set out what can and can’t be done.


Estate Planning

All assets, tangible or intangible, will form part of your estate, including those digital in nature.   You are able to deal with these in general terms or, where they are of particular value, sentimental or financial, then you may wish to ensure that it is specifically dealt with under the terms of your Will.  

You will need to think about ensuring you have digitally literate executors. It may, therefore, be sensible to appoint separate executors to those administering the rest of your estate.


Some social media platforms have in place an option to deal with an account on death.  You can select to appoint a Legacy Contact or Trustee who will, on your death, have limited access to your account.  They can then either maintain within the parameters set by the account provider or delete it or you may select that it is deleted automatically on death.  It is always worth checking to see what your options are and making sure you select the one suited to you.


Personal Log of Assets

It is always recommended that you have a list of your assets in a secure place so that your executors are quickly able to establish the extent of your estate on death.  The same will be true, and perhaps more importantly, for digital assets. There are specialist “password locker” companies who will securely store your passwords but as with most things, you’ll need to weigh up the risks and the cost against the benefit before signing up to it.  


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