Digital Assets – are they covered in your Will?

09/04/2021

We all know the importance of dealing with our property, bank accounts, investments, and other assets in our Wills, but have you ever thought about what would happen to your online presence?

What would happen to your logins for social media accounts such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google, YouTube, LinkedIn, Apple, or TikTok to name a few? Do your family automatically get control of your social media details or would it be the executors under your Will? What about your PayPal account, eBay login and various other things you may have signed up to, such as online dating profiles or cloud storage? Would you even want your nearest and dearest to have access to these upon your death?

Licence Agreement

If there is a Licence agreement in place between you and the provider, you are unlikely to be able to pass on these assets. Therefore, accounts including anything of a more sentimental nature, such as photographs, could just be lost. Practical steps are advised such as making backups and saving photographs to a memory stick which you leave to a loved one in your Will. This could save a lot of difficulty for your executors.

Deletion after inaction

Another issue to be wary of is that some internet service providers will delete your online accounts, after a period of inactivity, however some providers approach this differently. For example, Facebook allow you to nominate a legacy contact and Google allow you to nominate an inactive account manager. Many people do not know about these services so do not take advantage of them. On the other hand, Apple make it extremely difficult for data to be accessed after someone’s death so careful consideration should be given to what is saved in their Apple account and how this can be passed on following their death.

It is also possible to memorialise an account on death. This enables family and friends access to the account so they can leave a message. It is common for people to include funeral wishes in their Will, but most will not have considered what message if any, can be posted on social media.

Official guidance

The Law Society has recognised that very few people know what happens to their digital assets on death and why it is important to include these in your Will.

They also note that problems are not just limited to accessing photos on an online account. The lack of access could mean it is difficult to gain access to certain information on investments, which would be required for obtaining probate.

The Law Society suggest that a digital Will is kept with a clear record of online passwords to ensure your family do not face additional stress when dealing with these accounts. Also, include in your Will both your physical and digital assets to easily allow your executors to manage your estate.

Where to seek help

There are certain facilities that allow you to store passwords online securely. The details for accessing those accounts should be saved in your Will. You can also provide your Solicitor with details of your digital assets. This will enable your family and those dealing with your estate to finalise and deal with all of your assets in confidence knowing nothing has been missed.

If you want to protect yourself should you be unable to manage your affairs during your lifetime (such as through loss of capacity) a Lasting Power of Attorney may be a perfect solution to cover you too.

More information

If you would like any more information on what to include in your Will, please contact our Private Client team who will be happy to assist.

This article was written by Julia Sood, Solicitor in the Private Client Team at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of April 2021.

09/04/2021

Authors

Julia Sood

Solicitor

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