While Will writing has been around for centuries, the digital age has created new considerations as to the assets that should be dealt with by your Will. When planning for your future, it is as important to consider your digital assets as well as any physical property or money.
There is no legal definition of digital assets. The best way of thinking about it is anything that is stored online, which belongs to you. This could include online bank accounts, online files and social media profiles.
While some digital assets may have monetary value, such as a balance held in an online bank account, others, such as photos stored online may only have sentimental value. The important thing to think about when dealing with these assets in your Will is ensuring that assets you want to pass on can be dealt with by your Executor and given to the person you would wish to have them.
Ownership of assets – the question of who is the owner of an asset stored digitally is not always clear and will depend on the conditions of the operator of the online platform. Online bank accounts will always belong to the person whose name the account is in, whereas photos on a social media account may not be considered to be owned by the account owner.
Access to online accounts – one common problem that executors face is getting access to online accounts of the deceased. Many online providers do not have well-established procedures for dealing with requests where an account holder has died, unlike a bank would. To circumvent issues surrounding access to accounts post-death, it may be worth considering keeping log-in details to online accounts alongside your Will.
Jurisdictional issues - digital asset providers are subject to different laws across multiple jurisdictions. It can be challenging to trace the jurisdiction that the provider is in. This can then cause issues when an executor presents their authority to the provider to get access to the deceased's account – which may not be recognised in that jurisdiction.
It is important to think about your digital assets when writing your Will, and ensure they are all accounted for. This is also relevant when preparing Powers of Attorney, where authority to access digital assets can be given.
Where valuable assets are stored online, it is important as part of your estate planning process to consider the policies of the online service providers that will apply and how these assets are to be dealt with on death.
Discuss making a digital inventory, or some other record of important digital assets. Unlike physical assets, it is easy for digital assets to be forgotten about.
If you are looking to put in place a Will, or revise your existing Will, please contact us today. We are experts in complex Wills and dealing with digital assets, ensuring that no stone will be left unturned when planning for your future.
If this blog has raised any questions and you would like to discuss estate planning and your digital assets, please get in touch with Murray Beith Murray today using our Contact Form or call us on 0131 341 3741 to speak with one of our specialist solicitors.
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