Now more than ever, we all live in the digital space – we upload our photos to Facebook and Instagram; we keep all of our appointments in our online diaries; we download digital books and stream music. So much of what we used to hold in our home as assets has moved online.
Traditionally, we would have gifted items to our loved ones– boxes of photos, shelves of books or racks of CDs but it is harder to work out how to distribute our digital assets.
The trouble is that this shift has occurred so fast that legislation cannot keep up. One of the hardest areas is actually defining what a digital asset is – traditionally an asset is defined as something owned by you that has economic value and/or future benefit. You can understand, based on this definition, how digital assets present a problem. Whilst we might believe that we own all of the things we put on-line the truth is that it depends on which platform they are held on.
This presents a problem when it comes to leaving digital assets in our Will. For example, with all the digital records you hold on your personal laptop, the files themselves do not have value under the law and cannot be gifted to someone – even if they do have immense personal value to yourself. However, the laptop itself is considered an asset and can be gifted by Will.
It is important, that when you are considering writing your Will that you think carefully about your digital assets and where you would like these to be left and, if necessary, make specific provision for them in your Will.
There are some other actions you can take that will help safeguard your online footprint:
- Create a digital directory of all of your passwords and logins (password protected of course!) and keep it updated. A sealed envelope in a safe place is just as good.
- Make a Will which includes specific instructions on what you wish to happen to your digital assets. This will allow your executors to carry out your directions.
- Consider whether you would like your social media timelines to end when you do, or would you rather have your profile “memorialised” and make this clear to your executors.
- Online bank accounts can be left with clear instructions for your executors to enable them to close them down quickly and claim the money on behalf of your family
If you have any questions about managing your digital assets or how to look after your assets as part of your Will please contact me for a free, no obligation conversation.