Many of us will own digital assets without even realising. Those photos you store on an online storage solution, that bank account which you can only access on an app on your phone or even that heating app that controls your home’s heating remotely – the list goes on. Your executors are responsible to identify and collect in all assets within your estate and these now extend to our digital assets as well as our traditional physical assets, like our homes. It is more important than ever that we consider how we can advise our loved ones as to how to handle these assets after our death.
What are your digital assets?
Social media accounts have become an integral part of our lives whether that is LinkedIn for business purposes or Facebook for sharing our personal milestones. What will happen to these accounts after we pass away? A number of social media platforms offer the ability to create a Legacy Contact in lifetime for you to nominate and allow this individual to take over control of your account to create a memorial page or to simply remove the account to avoid unnecessary distress to your family or even prevent fraudulent activity taking place on the account. Check your social media settings as to what options each provider has and consider whom you wish to nominate as responsible for the account in the event of your death.
Financial digital assets
We also have more ways of handling our finances online than ever before. The rise of cryptocurrencies and our pledge for a more sustainable world of paperless statements, how will your loved ones know where your savings are held? Our homes are controlled digitally more than ever before too. We have security cameras, doorbells even heating and lighting in our homes which are all controlled on devices or through online accounts. With your executors being liable for identifying all assets in your estate, this task could become increasingly difficult without us considering these digital assets within our estate planning.
It is therefore recommended that you use a digital assets log, to be reviewed regularly so that it is updated with any changes or to add details of additional assets which have been acquired. This should be stored somewhere secure and access should not be given to any person during your lifetime to prevent fraudulent activity taking place. Alternatively, a third party commercial password manager could be utilised for this purpose where the information can be stored securely with a master password to access the relevant information including passwords and logins for the various online accounts.
Online photo storage solutions are becoming popular as a way to store special memories but this leads to the question of how do we access these precious memories after you’ve gone? The potential loss of these special photos could cause considerable upset for your family at an already difficult time. It is recommended that you either create hard copies of those special photos or back up these online storage albums with a hard drive or USB device. You could then make reference to this USB drive in your Will if you wish to leave particular photos or videos to your beneficiaries.
It is clear that technology has become part of our day-to-day life without even thinking about it. The concern is that if we do not give thought to these assets now, they could be lost and forgotten about causing your executors and family considerable stress at a time when they need more help than ever.
How can we help?
If you have any concerns as to how to ensure your loved ones can access and manage your digital assets, please talk to one of our Inheritance Protection team who will be happy to advise you.