What happens to your digital assets on death?

Jenny Walsh
smartphone

Table of Contents

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

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

Who owns the digital assets?

Some assets are not owned by the individual but 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 and photographs uploaded to social media.

Accessing digital assets when someone dies

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 the storage of login 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.

Which digital assets have 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.

Memorialising social media accounts

It is also possible to memorialise a social media account, instead of deleting or leaving it 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 not 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 of 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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