Digital Assets and Their Hidden Value
Digital assets refer to property that is stored on any electronic device such as a laptop, phone or tablet. The term encompasses a large variety of goods including online bank accounts, digital photos, online subscriptions, emails, passwords, loyalty points, crypto currencies etc. There is an ever-growing number of people who own valuable stock in digital assets yet are unaware of how they are distributed once they die. Unfortunately, the answer is not as clear compared to physical assets.
The first hurdle is considering whether you actually own something. Most online subscriptions are contracted to end upon the user’s death, meaning that it is not possible to bequeath your Spotify or Kindle account for example. Even possessions stored on your computer might not belong to you. Property created by someone else that is valuable might be protected by copyright and it may not be possible for the executors of your estate to actually distribute these assets.
Despite this, most people own some digital property which would need to be considered when their estate is distributed, for example online bank accounts such as PayPal. An executor is required to collect all the assets of your estate before distributing them to the beneficiaries and digital assets which you own are definitely a part of your estate. However, under the Computer Misuse Act 1990, an executor can be convicted of accessing someone’s account without any authority. For this reason, it is important that your executor has the authority to access your digital accounts.
Some digital assets, such as online bank accounts, only needed to be provided with a death certificate and grant of probate. For other digital assets, such as social media accounts, it is recommended that a Digital Assets Clause is included in your will with an updated list of passwords and usernames attached. This would allow your executors to access your online accounts without unknowingly breaking the law.
If you would like more information about digital assets and how to ensure that they are properly managed, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Garden House Solicitors.