Digital Assets – Things to consider when making a will

It is typical these days for people to own digital assets or store information online and many will have some sort of social media or email account.  Examples of what are termed as ‘digital assets’ would include:

  • Social media posts
  • Photographs and videos stored online
  • Blogs
  • Information contained in emails
  • Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin

But what happens to those digital assets when someone dies?  Various issues can arise in accessing online assets following a death, however, access should be easier if the account holder has taken action during their lifetime.  It is important therefore, to plan ahead to ensure that your digital assets are dealt with as you would intend, after your death.

Some first steps are as follows:

  • Make a list of logins and passwords of all online accounts and electronic devices. Securely store this list as a hard copy and keep it up to date.
  • Check the terms and conditions you agreed to when creating accounts online. There may be specific terms on how these accounts and assets will be administered on death.
  • Nominate somebody (such as your executor) to obtain permissions to access your digital asset accounts following death, with each Online Service Provider (OSP) such as Google, Facebook, etc.
  • Establish how an OSP deals with inactive accounts, as any process initiated by them could lead to data being permanently destroyed before your executor can gain access to it.
  • Give written instructions to your nominated person about memorialisation of social media accounts such as Facebook.

Attending to these steps while reviewing or making your Will, can assist your executors in effectively dealing with your online assets by informing them directly, or by keeping full details with your original Will where they can be discovered.

When thinking about your Will some main points to consider in relation to digital assets are:

  • There are standard clauses that can be found in some Wills that refer to gifts of personal items – commonly referred to as ‘personal chattels’ – but these clauses do not automatically include digital assets.
  • Assets such as photographs and videos may only have sentimental value and you should consider whether these assets should be left as part of a specific gift in your Will, to family and friends.
  • Photographs or videos having a monetary value with valuable copyright attached to them may need to be dealt with separately, with separate executors appointed in your Will, to administer them.

If you have any queries on the above issues, or if you would like to discuss making a Will in general please contact one of our Spire Solicitors LLP offices on:

Attleborough: 01953 453143

Aylsham: 01263 732123

Dereham: 01362 692424

Diss: 01379 641221

Norwich: 01603 677077

Watton: 01953 882864

Wymondham: 01953 606351