Protecting your digital assets

Coronavirus has accelerated our already increasing reliance on online services- banking, email, online accounts, shopping, social networking, photos and music. A recent survey revealed that online consumers have an average of £42,000 in digital assets.  But what happens to these when we die or lose capacity?  Can provision be made for them in your Will?

Access to most of this information will probably be stored on your phone or computer.  It’s possible that your family will know your passwords and be able to deal informally with the obvious things, but they may not discover everything and trawling through your records for clues may take an age.   

What if arguments erupt about who should inherit your photographs or the research or book you were writing on your computer?   Life can be made much easier with a few simple steps:-

  1. Prepare a Digital Inventory…

Much like your “real world” assets- keep a list of your online accounts for your attorneys or executors. Be careful about how you record passwords and obviously keep it secure and up to date. There are companies which give a secure login and the ability for attorneys or executors to retrieve all your stored passwords and online details.  If any online services or domain names require payment of an annual payment to maintain, make sure to include that in your inventory so that payments can be continued and prevent them from lapsing by mistake.

  1. Check what you can transfer and be aware some online services may end…

Some services like iTunes will cease once the provider becomes aware you have died. So whilst you might be able to leave your physical phone to someone, possibly not the music collection or photos which are accessed on it.  Some services like email accounts may be deleted after a certain period of inactivity.  Can these be backed up in another way onto a hard drive or printed out hard copy?

  1. Make provision in your Will…

You can nominate a digital executor if you wanted someone particular to deal with your digital assets, particularly if say your business operates using online platforms, blogs  or other services.

Social media accounts can sometimes be left open, or can  be memorialised so that only verified friends and family can post comments in remembrance. What do you prefer?  Would you like any particular message to be posted?

You can also include a digital assets clause in your Will either giving your digital assets to specific people or to your executors giving them the discretion to decide who should inherit. Wills made after 1st October 2014 won’t include digital assets as part of any personal possession clauses so unless you deal with them specifically, they might end up being inherited by whoever inherits your residue.  Is that what you would like?

 

If you wish to make a Will or discuss digital assets, chat to our Life Planning team at Guest Walker who will be able to help – telephone us on 01904 624903 or email solicitors@guestwalker.co.uk

Hudda Morgan

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