What will happen to my digital assets when I pass away?
It's a question we should all be asking ourselves nowadays as more and more of us hold a variety of assets in a digital form. These intangible assets may include photos, videos, contact details, downloaded music, blogs, podcasts and a variety of documents in Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint stored on laptops, tablets, mobile phones, the Cloud, the internet etc. – the list goes on and on.
Some of these assets may have a monetary value - your PayPal account, online bank account, online gaming credits or even that best-selling novel stored in Word that you haven't got round to printing.
Others will have sentimental value - your family photos, videos, telephone numbers and emails, scanned images of pictures your children drew at school where the originals have long since disappeared into the recycling bin.
And then there are all your email and social media accounts. What will happen to the content on these when you pass away? Will they become dormant or can your executors download the content and close your profile down? Recent news items have shown providers such as Facebook can make life challenging for third parties to access these private accounts.
What if you own cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin and the like? Security is key and your virtual assets are only accessible by your private pin. They are otherwise impossible for your executors and loved ones to discover as they are not managed by an institution you can contact; instead the system operates through a worldwide network of volunteer coders. If you haven't told anyone else that you own cryptocurrency or left a written note of the details for your nearest and dearest, the value of your asset may disappear forever into the digital abyss.
So how do you enable your personal representatives to identify and securely pass on your valuable cryptocurrency and digital assets to the next generation? How do you ensure your precious photos, phone numbers, social media accounts and the like can be retrieved and accessed by your personal representatives?
Possible solutions include using a safety deposit box to store pins and passwords in. A popular alternative is to leave a sealed envelope with your original Will to be opened only on your death which contains a letter with the details of all your digital assets and cryptocurrencies and the various usernames, related passwords and pin numbers and tell their executors where it is hidden. Others hide a note in a drawer or document folder and tell their executors where it is hidden. Whichever method you use, it is vital to keep these access details up to date.
Finally, consider whether your Will should contain gifts of your digital assets and cryptocurrencies and include clear and specific instructions for your executors to ensure they have the legal powers to handle them after your death.
If you would like to find out more about managing your digital assets in preparation for when you pass away contact a member of our legal team using the details below.
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