The world is becoming increasingly digital. We live more and more of our daily lives online be it through social media or the use of online accounts. It has now become commonplace to allow our photographs to be held on ‘the cloud’ or our music collection on our phones and therefore we do not often stop and consider the amount of information we hold digitally let alone what may happen to it when we die. Digital assets survive our incapacity or death and therefore we should be making a plan for them in the same way as we would a physical asset.
Digital Assets: What are they?
There is no legal definition of a ‘digital asset’ in the UK. They may be understood to be any information about you or created by you that exists in digital form. This may be online or on an electronic storage device as well as the information needed to access the information such as logins and passwords.
Why are they important?
Digital Assets may have a value that is financial; for example a PayPal account, or sentimental; for example the photographs that are uploaded to our Facebook profiles. Digital Assets have privacy and confidentiality considerations: Should anyone have access to your social media profiles after your death and what would you like to happen to those profiles?
Similarly, if you are no longer able to manage your digital accounts they are vulnerable to attack from criminals looking to commit identity theft.
We also highlight that the definition of ownership is not as straightforward as it once was. This is demonstrated by an enticing story from 2012 that Bruce Willis was to sue Apple and iTunes over ownership of his vast music collection. The story centred on Mr Willis’ wish to pass the collection on to his children when he dies. Whilst the story turned out not to be true it did create worthwhile focus on ownership rights. Had he pursued this Mr Willis may have just found that when he handed over $9.99 to Apple for an album he was rewarded with a lifetime track rental rather than permanent ownership.
What can I do?
Currently digital assets are overlooked when it comes to Will writing and lifetime planning. We are urging people to think about digital assets in the same way as physical assets.
Talk to us about your digital assets when you see us for a Will or Power of Attorney. We can help you guide your thinking about what you would like to happen to your digital assets and assist you in drafting a document that will aid your personal representatives as they negotiate the digital path after your death.
Please use the form on the right to contact us.