Digital Assets are something most of us own.
If you use a computer, tablet or smartphone you almost certainly have some.
They may not necessarily have a monetary value but will have some sentimental value
such as photographs which you could not replace and as such are priceless.
This makes it important to put in digital asset management instructions in your Will or Power of Attorney.
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In a world that increasingly relies on technology to manage day-to-day tasks such as banking and shopping, all is well while you are able to access it yourself but what happens when you can’t? Worse still what about when you die? How would any assets be realised?
Digital Assets are something most of us own, if you use a computer, tablet or smartphone you almost certainly have some. They may not necessarily have a monetary value but will have some sentimental value such as photographs which you could not replace and as such are priceless. This makes it so important to put in digital asset management instructions in your Will or Power of Attorney. Contact us if you want any further advice.
We have created a log for you to list your digital assets conveniently together in one place.
Download free today and then print it out, complete and store securely. Remember to keep it updated.
What Are Digital Assets?
These are a broad range of things including the most obvious:
- Bank Accounts including PayPal, Inland Revenue, Credit Unions.
- Share Trading – Spread Betting, Stockbroker, etrade, online gambling e.g.888, Ladbrokes
- Social Media – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace, Snapchat.
- Email Accounts – Google, Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail.
- Content Holders – iTunes, Amazon, eBooks, Spotify
- Government Departments – HMRC, Electoral services, Power of Attorney
- Online Auction Sites – eBay, Gumtree, Etsy
- Online Gaming Sites such as World of Warcraft
- Blogs containing intellectual property
- Domain Names and Websites
- Virtual Currency – Cryptocurrency e.g. Bitcoins
- Cloud Storage – Drop Box, Live Drive.
Also, anything you have created and stored on an electronic device which could be the draft of your first novel or your personal diary for example. While these do not have a financial value, they are important to your family. The vast majority of digital assets are at the very least password protected and this will cause great difficulties for anyone else to access them and deal with any issues when you can’t.
Additionally, a fiduciary ( a lawyer or executor ) has to know where the assets are as there is unlikely to be a paper trail.
Keeping track of these could easily become confusing, however we have created a convenient log for you to list your digital assets in and store safely for the future.
Do You Own the Asset?
Some perceived assets are owned on a licence agreement, and this is true of Apple and was highlighted by the tale of Bruce Willis being unable to pass his iTunes collection to his children as the end user agreement blocked this as it did not belong to him. A license is not transferable. It is also worth remembering that the licence may also give the company the right to use the contents of your account while it is active. All this is challenging and complicated so if you are unsure seek advice.
While the World Wide Web has made accessing information easy it has to be acknowledged that it has created some difficulties such as when a third party is trying to access assets that are held in another country. There are local laws that apply and must be adhered to. In The U.S.A. the Stored Communications Act makes access impossible as it prohibits social media companies releasing data unless there is ‘lawful consent of the original user’ There have been several high profile cases where Facebook and Apple have refused access to accounts until a court order has been given.
Value of Digital Assets
This can be divided into two categories, those that have a monetary value and those which have a sentimental value.
All assets need to be unlocked for a variety of reasons:
- To release any money to the owner or estate.
- To enable an executor to manage an estate efficiently and effectively.
- To assess any liabilities due. E.g. outstanding tax
- Enable photos or other personal items to be saved.
At first glance it’s easy to see that Bank accounts, share accounts and betting accounts have a monetary value and are relatively straightforward to transfer and access. The challenge is that they are not always visible and where do you start looking for them?
One possible solution is to keep a log of assets with passwords to enable them to be accessed by a third party if you are unable to. Failure to do so could mean a loss of money due to charges being imposed on dormant accounts like 888.com who levy a 10% a month charge on accounts.
Websites and domain names may have significant value and depend on subscriptions to maintain otherwise they will be lost. Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, which are not part of any bank as they work independently and as an encrypted service, are impossible to access without access to the necessary accounts and wallets.
eBay trading accounts or YouTube channels that bring an income can be passed on as assets.
Many small businesses that operate from home use a computer to keep records which will include day to day data to ensure the smooth running of the business. Likewise, many people keep work or work related data on their home computers, these too need to be accessed either to allow a small business to continue trading or for it to be wound up.
Sentimental Value – Otherwise Priceless
This would include photographs, personal emails, blogs and social media accounts. All irreplaceable and therefore priceless in terms of sentimental value. If these accounts remain dormant they will be lost forever. Facebook allow transfer to a memorial account.
We have created a log for you to keep record of your logins for such webites and more. Download for free now and complete and store safely for the future.
Legal Difficulties in Sharing Passwords.
You may be thinking if I tell someone my password then problem solved – not so. Anyone who has the proper authority from the individual may find themselves in breach of the terms and conditions of a company. The whole electronic data storage system is complex, particularly if the company operates from outside the U.K. If you are unsure contact us for advice.
Some digital Asset Providers will allow changes -- a few examples:
Facebook – Allow accounts to be migrated to a ‘memorial’ account
PayPal – the account will be closed on presentation of a death certificate and/or Grant of Probate
iCloud – Account terminated and content deleted
When you are thinking about your digital assets and what will happen to them in the event of your death these are a few of the things you should consider:
- Which of your assets are exclusively online?
- Make a Digital Asset Log – remember to keep it up to date. We have a log sheet that you can download here
- Prepare written instructions about what you want done if you were to die or are unable to manage yourself. – e.g. memorialisation or deletion of content.
- Draft a Will that makes provision for the management of digital assets using professional Will services.
Remember to Include anything and everything on your log as this ensures all assets are accounted for and they are not lost completely.
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Wills, Probate And Estate Specialists
I’m Adrian Chambers and specialise in Probate and Estate matters. We aim to provide our clients with an outstanding legal service.
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