In this day and age, as well as the bricks and mortar, cars, paintings, books, pensions and savings accounts that make up one’s estate, there are what are known as digital assets.
Most people nowadays have at least some digital assets. These can be of sentimental value, such as digital photos and videos and access to social media accounts. Or they can be surprisingly valuable, such as cryptocurrencies, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and access to points in gambling accounts.
The Law Society says that just 26% of respondents know what happens to their digital assets after they die – with only 7% saying they fully understand and 19% saying they somewhat understand. Of those surveyed who have a Will, an overwhelming 93% had not included any digital assets in their Will.
Important to Have a Will
Digital assets are considered just as much a part of an estate as physical assets. Any digital assets that aren’t specifically mentioned in a Will are considered part of the residuary estate and will pass to whichever beneficiary is entitled to inherit it.
If you were to die without leaving a valid Will, your digital assets would pass with the rest of your estate to whoever was entitled to inherit, via the intestacy rules.
The higher the value of whatever digital assets you might possess, the more important it is that you stipulate how you want your executors to deal with them.
Your social media accounts should be dealt with according to your wishes – you might want to, for instance, memorialise your Facebook account – something the company offers, where tributes can be left, or you might want your account to be removed entirely.
Some people might prefer to have all their digital records and files destroyed, especially if they had things on them that they did not want their loved ones to see.
If the person who has died had business-related digital assets such as monetised social media accounts, online storefronts, or digital art files, this can be a big responsibility for an executor. They might need to consult experts on how to both value and sell these digital assets.
If the person who has died has not left instructions on how to log in or to access digital assets, their executors will have to follow the policies of each company with whom the person had an account with regard to passwords and access.
These policies can vary widely, and it might not be possible for loved ones to access accounts, which can mean that digital assets of sentimental value such as emails, photographs and written text might be lost.
Accessing your Accounts
When you make a Will, you can choose to include instructions on how to access your digital accounts after your death. Some digital accounts also allow you to add an ‘inactive account manager’ or a ‘legacy contact’ who would be authorised to manage your account should you no longer be able to.
Our highly trained team at PowellsLaw can advise on how best to include both your physical and digital assets in your Will – ensuring people’s estates are inherited exactly as they wish and preventing any problems for loved ones and executors when they are grieving.
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