At the time of making a Will, we often give importance only to the physical assets, such as the houses that we own, the bank accounts that we hold or any other physical property. With that in mind, we sometimes tend to give very little thought to what would happen to our digital assets after we’re gone.
At Legacy Wills, we believe that each of us have a responsibility towards our loved ones to organise things in a way that there is no inconvenience to be faced by them at a later stage. This involves laying down clear instructions as to what should happen to our physical as well as digital assets once we’re gone.
Recently, Facebook altered the way in which it generally dealt with the passing of a user. A legacy contact can now be nominated by a user and it is up to them to decide whether they should memorialise or close the account upon the death of the user.
But besides Facebook, there are many other types of digital assets and following are certain questions that you may have related to them.
- Upon death or losing capacity, what happens to my digital assets?
- Is it possible to pass on digital assets in my Will?
- Do executors or solicitors have the right to deal with such assets that I own?
- How will the executor or solicitor access my digital assets?
Perhaps the most common digital asset that we own is an internet banking account. While bank accounts are not exclusively held online, it is easy for executors and solicitors to trace these online accounts through cheque books and bank cards.
Whether such accounts can be digitally managed by executors or not mostly depends on the terms and conditions which have been laid down by the bank or building society. Generally, banks have specific departments that deal with powers of attorney, deputyship and bereavement.
Cryptocurrencies or virtual currencies, such as bitcoin, is another digital asset that people more commonly hold these days. Transactions of these currencies take place from digital or virtual wallets, which are exclusively stored in a virtual world.
There are many outlets in the UK such as restaurants, pubs and internet retailers that accept bitcoin as a form of payment. In March 2014, HMRC released a tax brief which provides some information on these currencies. It is expected that laws will be put in place that provide greater clarity regarding virtual currency transactions at some point in the future.
Digital Media Accounts
Many of us purchase digital movies, ebooks and MP3s that we consider to be of immense value. Naturally, we assume that our collection should be passed on after our death.
Google Play, Amazon kindle and iTunes are some examples of subscription accounts through which we make such digital purchases. But these companies offer a limited license to use our purchased movies, books or music. The license implies that we are not the owner of our media thus making both the account and our collection non-transferable upon death.
Although it has not been clearly specified in their policies, Apple’s customer service team is known to transfer an account upon the death of the original user. Despite the non-transferability rules, it may be possible to transfer a device along with relevant passwords which holds such digital media on death or incapacity.
Cloud storage has become our default way of preserving data, be it our important documents or our digital photographs. Whether such accounts can be accessed by any person other than us remains a prerogative of the relevant providers and their specific terms.
Usually when the holder dies or ceases to pay the subscription fees, such accounts along with the data held in them are deleted. But it is still possible to grant others the right to access your accounts and its content after your death.
One can also access the account, download the content and transfer it to another account. Due to a lack of awareness and legal guidelines regarding the disposal of such digital legacies, dealing with them under a Will or power of attorney can present several challenges.
Also, one should note that providing sensitive information such as card PINs or account passwords should not be mentioned in public documents such as a Will.
At Legacy Wills we understand that your digital assets may not have much financial value but more of a sentimental or emotional significance. Nevertheless, it is important that each of us write a Will and take a concrete step towards protecting our assets and loved ones.