Including digital assets in your Will

13 Dec 2013

A staggering 70% of 65-74 year olds in the UK are now online.

The way we handle our data is changing.  Online savings accounts are offering favourable interest rates, CD collections are being discarded in favour of a music library online, films are being ordered from an online account (rather than a visit to Blockbuster) and Paypal balances are increasing with more people using Paypal as a source of storing funds online for internet purchases. 

New research suggests Britons are amassing a £2.3 billion digital inheritance and so the question arises about what happens to our beloved gadgets, phones, social websites, photos, books and music once we die?  With Christmas fast approaching and online gift vouchers being purchased at an astonishing rate, it is important to be aware that funds in online accounts such as online bank accounts, Paypal, gambling accounts, music, books, lottery accounts and photos may be lost when the owner dies.

 A poll of 2000 adults found 25% had more than £200 worth of films, video and music stored online.

One of the roles of an Executor is to identify the assets and liabilities of an estate.  What happens when the deceased only kept online accounts and statements? Increasingly people now decline paper statements in favour of online versions so the question arises – how would the Executor find this information?  One option is a new concept where online digital inheritance arrangements can be documented; a person can have password restricted access to their own unique area which they could then make a secure list of their digital assets.  The Executors are then left the access code to the online storage facility.

It should also be noted that, when making a Will it is important to take charge of these digital assets while a person is still alive.  These assets need to be taken into account and a clear record of online accounts, files and passwords kept and safely stored so that the Executors of an estate can deal with them appropriately. Bear in mind that putting the information in a Will leaves you vulnerable because the Will becomes a public document once a Grant of Probate has been obtained.

Therefore, the information should be stored as a separate note but with your Will (ideally in a solicitor’s strongroom) reducing risk of them being lost or stolen and in order that they can be updated as necessary at no extra cost.