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Digital And Online Assets – Is Your Online Life Organised In The Event Of Your Death?

When individuals think about making a Will and what they have to leave, thought will often go to “my property”, “my jewellery”, “my cash” – but what about digital and online assets? Many individuals may even consider they have no “digital assets” but the reality is that in the modern age of technology we are now living in, the majority of us do. 

What are Digital Assets?

A digital asset is broadly speaking anything that is created and stored digitally that can be identified, located and has or provides a monetary value. 

Technological advances have ensured that digital assets have become integrated into our personal and also professional lives. Such assets could include:-

  • Data
  • Images or Videos
  • Written content

The above assets are very often now considered to be digital assets with ownership rights. Therefore, something which could need to be assigned under an individual’s Will.

What are Online Assets?

Online assets are more applicable to the majority of individuals now in the UK. Many people now shop online, bank online, hold share portfolios and have online payment accounts – all of which require verification and passwords to access. 

The difficulty is that often online accounts do not provide any form of paper statement or passbook leaving no paper trail for executors or beneficiaries to follow. It is the case that often such online assets may go unaccounted for leaving beneficiaries out of pocket and none the wiser as to assets which could be sat dormant in online accounts for many years (or even forever). 

Social Media 

Although not necessarily an asset of “monetary value”, a person’s whole life can often be encapsulated in digital images and photographs held in online social media accounts or in “the cloud” facility which their mobile phone link to. People will often have hundreds or thousands of pictures which might include big events in their lives, their children growing up and special family occasions. 

The question is when someone dies, who takes control of these accounts and who can access them? Facebook’s current policy is that they will not give login details to a person’s account, even in these circumstances. They will however “memorialise” a member’s page if they are notified of the death. This would not necessarily guarantee access to the page and its contents. 

For some people, this can be a comfort and they may take heart in reading comments left relating to the Deceased. However, for some people this could be extremely upsetting and seen as inappropriate. If your loved ones or the people who are going to deal with your estate cannot access your account, this becomes out of their control and the reality is, a memorial page could remain for the duration of time.            

What can I do to get digitally organised?

Most people do not know when they are going to die and do not plan for it. However, there are some really simple steps that can be taken to deal with the issues that could arise;

  • Speak to close family and loved ones – would you want a permanent memorial on Facebook? It is worth discussing and planning for and one way to deal with this is to leave a detailed note with your Will. This is not necessarily something you would put in your Will as things can change over time such as accounts and passwords, but a note or letter can simply be placed and replaced with your Will document. 
  • Keep a list of all digital and online assets you have and put this somewhere safe. This could include the bank name, account number and current value (at the date of the note). 

By getting organised it can save a lot of time and expense in locating of missing assets and also allows you to make your own decisions as opposed to leaving this to your family and loved ones to deal with.