When we write our Wills it goes without saying that we would consider to whom we wish to leave our physical assets such as property, personal effects and bank accounts.

But what about our digital assets?

Our digital estate consists of digital media and rights that can be inherited. This can be content stored on our personal computers, laptops and phones and also online accounts and online services, including but not limited to:

  • eBay, Gumtree, Shpock, Amazon and other selling and buying sites.
  • ITunes, Google Play, Audible. Sites where you have an account and pay regularly for items.
  • ANY site where you pay a monthly or annual membership (Ancestry.co.uk, NowTV, etc.).
  • Any Blogs or websites that you own or manage.
  • Social media such as Twitter, Facebook (including any games especially if you have ever purchased any ‘in game’ items), Snapchat, Instagram & Pinterest.
  • If you are an Administrator for a Facebook page or own a business Page ESPECIALLY if you pay for adverts.

Such assets are different from physical assets because they can change or be deleted. Furthermore there may be grey areas as to whether certain assets can in fact be bequeathed – For example contracts with a service provider may be terminated on death which will prevent the passing of any related digital asset to a chosen beneficiary.  Online memberships might continue, if your executors, family or beneficiaries cannot access the account (perhaps they are unaware of passwords) or are unaware of the account. Consequently any monthly membership fees will still be taken from the card or account that you provided, unless such account is frozen.

What to consider when you write your Will:

  • you should be able to write a comprehensive list of all of your digital assets with website addresses and associated passwords and these should be kept in a secure place but easy to locate in the event of your death;
  • you should make regular backups of your digital data;
  • you should nominate not only who you would like to benefit from the digital assets but also provide clear instructions to an individual (your Executors for example) as to how you would like your digital assets administered following your death. you should be aware of which of your assets you are able to pass to beneficiaries;
  • please note that some providers such as Facebook can arrange for an account to be memorialised (so that the account remains “in memory of” a deceased person) You should be aware which of your accounts would have this option and whether you would want such account remaining in existence in this way;
  • It is very important to check the specific rules of the services you are using for example Google has an “Inactive Accounts Manager” which allows you to nominate someone to receive an email if your account becomes inactive, that nominated person will then be able to access your Google content such as You Tube videos (depending on what rights you give to them). However, Apple simply state that there are no survivorship rights with your Apple account and that your account will be closed if they are notified of your death; and
  • You may also want to consider digitally held media such as photographs and video that are held on your devices and who you would wish to transfer these to.

In summary digital assets play such an important role in our everyday life but they can be so easily overlooked when considering how we leave our estates in the event of death.

Once you have made your list please do give us a call to discuss how we might incorporate it into your Will.  Alternatively, if you have any questions before you start your list, please do not hesitate to contact me Shirah Blackwood or anyone within the Wills, Trusts & Estate Administration Team on 0118 975 6622 or 01491 570900.