What happens to your digital assets on death?

26 Jul 2019 | Jenny Walsh

This question is become increasingly prominent with the advancement of technology and increase in social media platforms.

Digital assets can include photographs, music, videos, crypto-currency, emails, online games and conversations on social media.

Some assets are not actually owned by the individual and instead are enjoyed on a licence and the usage is stipulated in the terms and conditions. The content acquired may terminate on death and so cannot be left under a Will. This can be the case with music but also with photographs uploaded to social media.

Accessing digital assets

When administering an estate after someone has died, it can be difficult to access digital assets and online accounts and care must be taken regarding storage of login in details and passwords as the storage of this information may be a breach of the terms of use. It is, therefore, a good idea to back up information or print out what is necessary for your executors to administer the estate.

Personal assets – sentimental and monetary value

Some digital assets may only have sentimental value but others can have monetary value in intellectual property, including:

  • Blogs
  • Domain names
  • Digital artwork
  • YouTube accounts linked to advertising etc

It is important to consider who you wish to leave these assets to.

After death – memorialising social media accounts

It is also possible to memorialise a social media account, instead of deleting or leaving as it is. Facebook and Google, for example, allow you to appoint a contact to take control of the accounts after your death. Usually, this means the account will still be there for message posting but, will be more private so that only those who actually know the person who has died can find the account. You can arrange for the sites to stop sending anniversary updates. One of the benefits for keeping the account active is that it can help people share memories of the person; offering some comfort to those left behind.

The definition of ‘personal chattels/possessions’ in a Will does not cover digital assets and so care must be taken when drafting your Will, and keeping it up to date.

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