Our digital life will last beyond our own life.
As our lives become more and more digitised, we are creating a new category of personal property, that is, digital assets. This includes online accounts, photos, music and emails.
There are three areas generally identified – to think about and prepare for – when it comes to your digital and online life:
- Digital assets with financial value, such as online banking, PayPal, online shopping accounts and cryptocurrencies (for example Bitcoin);
- Digital assets with social value, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn profiles; and
- Digital assets of personal significance, such as Cloud storage, Flickr, YouTube and iTunes.
Whilst the use of social media, cloud storage, online banking accounts, emails and an array of digital platforms and accounts, continues to grow, their governing laws have not developed alongside. As result, it is unclear where the notion of digital assets fits amongst other traditional concepts of property, especially when it comes to a Will. Nor is there any UK case law to shape what happens to someone’s ‘digital estate’ and its contents after they die.
You should consider compiling a digital directory.
This should contain details of all of your online assets, social media accounts, logins and passwords.
Keep it together with a list of hard storage devices such as computers, laptops, USBs, smart phones and external storage drives. Update it regularly and keep it in a safe place which cannot be accessed until required by your executors/beneficiaries.
It is vital to ensure that your Will includes information for your executors giving details of your digital, online presence. This is something that should be seen as being of equal importance to a life insurance policy or other investment.
You have the legal right to pass on digital assets with financial value to your chosen beneficiaries.
You should consider which parts of your digital estate you wish to be passed on and who you wish to have access to them. For example, you may not want certain family members to access your email.
You also have the legal right to manage the deactivation, memorialisation or removal of your digital social life, but you need to take steps to exercise your rights by making a Will.
How we can help
If you have any questions about any matters raised in this article, please feel free to contact us. All initial enquiries are at no charge and without obligation. We are keen to have as much helpful content on our website as possible. Supplementary questions allow us to expand and improve the information provided on this site.
This article was contributed by Maureen Jarvis, who is a Tax and Executry Assistant in our Elgin office. Thank you, Maureen.