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Safeguarding your digital assets

As we increasingly conduct our business online, it is becoming more important to consider what will happen to your digital assets when you die.

Digital assets fall into three broad categories: Financial assets such as PayPal accounts or cryptocurrency, assets with a social value, for example Twitter or Facebook accounts and assets with a sentimental value, such as YouTube and Flickr.

Financial assets can legally be passed on as part of your estate. However, it is important that your executors are aware that these assets exist and know how they can be accessed. For some accounts there may be no paper evidence.

Earlier this year a case highlighted the problems that can arise. Canada’s largest crypto currency exchange was unable to access millions of dollars after the sudden death of its chief executive. He was the only person who knew the password to gain access to the company’s digital wallets.

As far as social media accounts are concerned it is important that you consider who you would want to be able to access these accounts and whether you would want them memorialised or closed down. As these accounts and accounts with sentimental value often contain photographs you may want your family and friends to have access to them after your death.

Katy Burgin, specialist wills solicitor, commented: “Under UK law, the legal position regarding digital assets means that it is often necessary to accept the terms and conditions of the service provider. A further issue is that relatives of the deceased have no legal right to access information, or photographs, held in an online account”.

The extent of this was highlighted in a recent case where a widow had to obtain a court order, and pursue a 3-year-long court case, for her to be given access to photos of her daughter which were on the phone.

Katy adds: “It is useful to keep a digital directory, which is regularly updated and contains details of assets, accounts and passwords. The directory can be stored securely by your solicitor with your will. This will allow your executors to identify and access assets which can then be passed to your chosen beneficiaries”.