Only 7% of People Know What Will Happen to Their Digital Assets When They Die

According to a survey carried out by The Law Society in June 2020, a huge 93% of people questioned admitted to not including any digital assets in their last will and testament, with just 7% stating that they completely understand what happens to their digital assets when they die. Do you?

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If you’ve already made a will or you’re considering doing so to protect your hard-earned assets from being handed over to the wrong people when you pass away, have you thought about your digital assets such as your online email and social media accounts?After considering where you want your physical assets to go, like your property, cash and other personal and valuable possessions, it’s important that you don’t forget about your digital assets because these cannot be simply left in your will like many people assume.

Leaving a digital legacy alongside your will

As with all of your other assets you’ve worked hard for and accumulated throughout your lifetime, it is important to remember to include details of all your online accounts and other digital assets in a type of ‘e-register’ document alongside your will, as this will be a huge help for your loved ones when the time comes to start the probate process - it will save them time and a lot of hassle at a very upsetting and difficult time.

Digital assets are any type of personal property or records that you have in digital form. Some examples include:

  • Online bank accounts
  • Cryptocurrency
  • Electronic currency
  • Crowd-funding investments
  • Images, videos or files including text that are saved electronically (such as photos stored in the Cloud)
  • Digital accounts such as Facebook, Instagram, iTunes, Amazon, etc.
  • Website(s)
  • Software licences

If your family and loved ones do not have any information regarding your digital assets and online accounts, nobody will be able to delete or update your social media accounts and they could even get hacked. On top of this, your digital assets are unlikely to go to the people you wish them to and they’ll end up getting left behind or falling into the wrong hands.

Also, if you have saved important information on your laptop but have not provided any details about it, this may make things very difficult for the person dealing with your estate (known as the executor) if they are unable to find the relevant details regarding your beneficiaries, etc.

This is why it’s important to create a digital legacy (a list of all your digital assets) and keep it safe alongside your will to make the process as easy as possible for the people you leave behind.

Read more: Keeping your will safe

Digital and online assets cannot be left in a will

Many people do not realise that you cannot put online and digital information into a will because in the event of the testator (the person who wrote the will) dying, the will could become a public document, so leaving any online or financial information in your will could cause serious security issues later on.

To avoid any issues at all, it is highly recommended that you write a separate letter that includes information regarding each digital asset that you own. 

It should NOT, however, include any of the following:

  • Online banking login details
  • Usernames
  • Passwords
  • Security questions and answers

In your digital legacy letter, you should include your social media accounts but refrain from providing the login details. Your loved ones will need to contact each platform to arrange for access or for your account to be closed down.

Or, your loved ones can arrange for your social media accounts to remain available, but safe from hackers. Facebook, for example, allows users to ‘memorialise’ an account, which means that the deceased person’s photos and posts will stay online, but it’ll be more difficult for criminals to hack into the account.

Photographs and music

If you have information and photos saved online, such as in the Cloud, they could get completely lost if you do not leave instructions for a loved one to be able to find them. As you cannot leave your login details and passwords on your digital legacy, you will need to let your family know where everything is stored online so that they can contact those companies when the time comes in order to try and gain access to them or close them down.

Generally, platforms where photos and other digital assets are stored will have their own policies in place regarding the death of the owner, so they should be able to find this out if you give them the simple details regarding where they are stored (without the login details).

If you have a music account such as Spotify or iTunes, it may be that you only have the right to listen to these songs while you are alive, so there may be a policy stating that the account cannot be passed on to someone else after you have passed away.

Anything else

You will need to list the names of all the companies that you have online accounts with, whether that’s for your utility bills or your phone company, so that your loved ones can get in touch with each one to make sure your accounts are all closed upon your death.

Due to the importance of making sure you have created a list of all your digital assets and the security involved, it is a good idea to store it in the same place as your will, and be sure to tell your loved ones where they are both located so that they can easily find them when the time comes.

You might like: Talking to your family about your will

Is your will up-to-date?

As well as making sure you have made a list of all your digital assets for your loved ones, it’s also essential that you make sure your existing will is up-to-date if you already have one. If you do not have a will but are thinking about writing one, remember to update it in the future when anything in your life changes significantly, such as a birth, marriage, divorce, etc.

If you do not keep your will updated then it will be completely invalid in the future and your estate will not be shared out in line with your personal wishes. Instead, it will be distributed as per the UK’s intestacy rules.

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