Does Your Will Cover Your Digital Assets?
We all know that having a will is a good idea. It ensures that, when you pass away, your assets are distributed according to your wishes and your loved ones don’t have to worry about settling your estate.
One thing we often get asked nowadays is what happens to digital assets when you die and can you leave them in your will?
We spend a lot of our time online nowadays, whether that’s doing our banking, answering emails, listening to streaming services or engaging with social media such as Facebook. The truth is that these are not included specifically in your last will and testament simply because they involve logins and passwords and your has the potential to end up in the public domain.
Assets such as your Facebook page are not actually owned by you. You lease the space off the company and once you die they have the right to close your account. Facebook do offer a legacy service where someone is nominated to take over your account if you die – they can update information, add a final message from you or respond to friend requests and the like. It provides your nominated person the ability to undertake limited activity which includes closing the account.
Other social media sites vary in their approach to how they handle accounts after someone has passed away. Some offer only basic cancellation once the account and executor have been identified. All too often accounts get left in a digital no man’s land and continue to remain active well after someone has died.
With options such as iTunes, where a person may have gathered a large amount of music or other media over the years, the issue is that these are not actually owned by the individual. You buy a licence to play a certain song and once you pass away that licence reverts back to the company. It’s not the same as CDs where you have a physical entity that you can pass on to a loved one.
What many people don’t realise is that they have quite a large range of digital assets that need to be sorted out by the named executor once someone passes away. Making sure that you keep all this information available is important. It helps to make a list of all the places where you have an online presence, note their function and logging on details while still keeping this information secure. It can save loved ones a lot of time and make sure assets that they weren’t aware of aren’t missed.
Even if you have been designated as the executor of a person’s estate, that doesn’t automatically mean you can access their digital accounts. It’s always best to check with the terms and conditions of the account or have a chat with a solicitor before you go ahead.
At Forster Dean we have qualified probate solicitors on hand who can advise you on all aspects of making a will as well as talking you through the legal side of digital assets of all kinds. If you’d like to find out more, contact our friendly legal team today.