Our Private Client team outline why it's important to identify your digital assets and keep a record.
Issues arising in relation to death and digital assets
Apart from identifying and accessing your assets you may also wish your Executors to retrieve photographs and other items of personal value which are stored online which you may wish to pass on to your beneficiaries.
You may need to either consider arranging pre-authorised access for your Executors to enter into the various sites or alternatively to leave them with sufficient information to allow them to enter the site under your persona, though we would stress that in many cases this latter option is actually a breach of the service provider’s conditions. The least you need to do is to identify which sites might require to be accessed to allow the Executors to target their energies.
Creating a digital footprint
The following will help you consider some of the the problems and to create a definitive list of your digital footprint and to separately leave some guidance to your Executors on the issue of access.
Identifying your digital assets
One of the first things that needs to be identified is the actual extent of your “digital assets”. Much of what we may think of as “ours” is in fact only being used temporarily under a licence which will end on our death. Your Kindle library is a good example of just such a non transferable “asset”- if you want to leave a library then you had better start buying books and not downloads. Some of the areas where assets can be found are as follows:
If you bank online then obviously your executors will need to know the details of your bank and account number to be able to ascertain the position. If you don’t leave details then they may never know such an account ever existed. In the circumstances it is NOT recommend that you leave a note of any PIN number as this would definitely breach the bank’s conditions-it is sufficient that you identify where the accounts are as this will enable the executors to make further investigations.
Online Games/ Virtual Worlds
You may have “virtual property” in the form of online credits etc which nevertheless have a real financial value. Again you must identify the location of these and in this case identify how your executors might access them to realise their value.
These social interaction sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. may require to be accessed by your next of kin or executors for the purposes of editing your account, notifying your contacts or retrieving photographs or other data which may have been uploaded by you on these sites and which may in fact not be stored anywhere else.
Access may also be required to any email provided to whom you subscribe as well as to your phone provider in relation to texts.
These suggested areas are not intended to be comprehensive but helpful suggestion for you to you to think about the extent of your digital existence and how you might make it easier for those who follow to effectively notify, administer, edit and ingather your digital assets.