However, very few of us think to include these in our wills which means that our loved ones don’t know that they exist.
What are digital assets?
The definition of digital assets is a broad one and includes all accounts, files, applications and content which is stored on any digital device such as a computer or mobile phone. Digital assets include such things as blogs, social media and email accounts, tax accounts, digital photographs, online bank accounts linked to trading sites such as Amazon and PayPal, and media storage such as iTunes or iClouds.
What are the issues?
If we do not leave a paper trail to our digital asset legacy it can become virtually impossible for an executor of a will to carry out their obligations and identify all of the assets belonging to the deceased and ensure they are properly accounted for and valued.
Even if assets are known, without usernames and passwords the will executors, and ultimately beneficiaries, are unable to access them. It is therefore essential to leave a list of your online accounts, together with all of the relevant access information either with your will or a trusted person.
It is not advisable to put this information into your will as following your death your will may eventually become part of the public record and therefore the passwords and usernames within it will be available to anyone.
Some of our digital assets are not ours to leave in our will. For example, songs purchased through iTunes and electronic books downloaded onto kindles are not our property. When we purchase them we are simply granted a license to read or listen to them. Practically, however, it would be possible to leave your kindle together with a separate note of the password to a chosen beneficiary.
What should you do
– Make an inventory of all your digital assets and logins. Keep this updated regularly and store it either with your will or with a trusted person;
– Ensure you back up all of your digital assets which are of significant importance or sentimental value on an external hard drive;
– Include any sentimental digital assets in your will and specify to whom you wish to leave them to. If you have any intellectual digital assets, such as a blog, include this in your will with clear directions as to who should continue with it;
– Specify in your will exactly what you would like to happen to your digital legacy, such as social media accounts, and whom you would like to deal with the formalities of memorialising or closing them. They will need to contact the site owner to do this and will have to provide them with a copy of your death certificate.