What Are Digital Assets in a Will? How to Pass Them?

What are digital assets?

Digital assets are any electronic records or files stored online, on mobile devices, or on personal computers. Common examples include email and social media accounts, online banking, subscription-based accounts, photos saved online, and loyalty program benefits. It’s important to include these assets in a will because they can have sentimental or monetary value and their management after death can be complicated. Ensuring that digital assets are accounted for in an estate plan can make it easier for loved ones to access and manage them. Read our Digital Estate Planning Guide.

Asset Group

Digital Assets

Popular Examples

Average Time to Inherit

Social Media Accounts

Profiles, Photos, Videos

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn

2-4 weeks

Email Accounts

Personal Emails, Contacts

Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook

3-6 weeks

Online Financial Accounts

Online Banking, Brokerage, Cryptocurrency, PayPal

HSBC Online, Charles Schwab, Bitcoin Wallet, PayPal

4-8 weeks

Digital Media Accounts

eBooks, Music, Movies, Games

Amazon Kindle, iTunes, Netflix, Steam

2-6 weeks

Cloud Storage Accounts

Documents, Photos, Videos

Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud

2-4 weeks

Online Retail Accounts

Purchase History, Digital Wallets, Points/Rewards

Amazon, eBay, Tesco Online

3-5 weeks

Domain Names & Websites

Websites, Blogs, E-commerce

WordPress, GoDaddy, Wix

4-8 weeks

The average time to inherit digital assets can vary greatly depending on the specific policies and procedures of each platform. Popular digital service providers have dedicated support teams that deal with the management of transferring accounts to the rightful person after the account holder passes away.

How can our Inherrit app help to pass them in your will securely and efficiently?

inherrit mobile app to securely list and share digital assets

Our Inherrit mobile app serves as a pivotal tool to securely and efficiently pass on your digital and physical assets to your loved ones. As a comprehensive mobile application, the Inherrit app is designed to help you digitise your estate and legacy planning in an uncomplicated and secure manner. You can easily record all your assets – both physical and digital – in a straightforward list that is designed with user-friendliness in mind. Whether it’s social media accounts, email accounts, online financial resources, digital media, cloud storage, online retail accounts, or domain names and websites, each asset can be logged, tracked, and managed from our app. Key features include the ability to selectively share this information with designated individuals, bolstered by robust security measures to ensure the utmost confidentiality. Our goal is to make the process of passing on your legacy as seamless and stress-free as possible, giving you peace of mind that your wishes will be carried out precisely as you intend.

What should you consider when leaving digital assets in your will?

tips for passing digital assets

1. Identification and Inventory of Digital Assets

The term ‘digital assets’ is expansive, encapsulating various elements that exist in your digital footprint. These could be email accounts that archive essential communications, social media profiles that serve as a chronicle of your personal life, online banking accounts that manage your finances, digital photos and videos that capture precious memories, blogs that document your thoughts, domains that represent your online presence, and digital wallets containing cryptocurrencies as part of your investment portfolio.

Given the diversity and volume of these digital assets, it’s critical to meticulously catalogue each one. This is not a task to be done haphazardly, but rather one that requires thoughtful consideration and organisation. Begin by noting down each digital platform that you engage with, detailing the associated assets. For example, your Google account is not just an email account, but a gateway to several assets like Google Drive documents, photos stored on Google Photos, YouTube channels, blogs on Blogger, and so on.

This inventory process also extends to digital assets that might not be in daily use but still hold significant value. These could include dormant email accounts, inactive blogs, or forgotten digital wallets. It’s essential not to overlook such assets, as they form a part of your digital legacy and might hold considerable sentimental or financial value.

Creating a comprehensive and organised list of these assets forms the foundation of effective digital legacy planning. It ensures that no asset falls through the cracks, and each one is accounted for in your will. This proactive step is the first towards facilitating a smooth transition of your digital legacy to your loved ones, making sure every piece of your digital life is acknowledged and preserved as per your wishes.

2. Understanding Terms of Service

Every digital platform that we use, be it for social interaction, financial management, creative expression, or online storage, operates under a unique set of terms of service. These terms outline the rules users must follow and detail the platform’s protocol for handling accounts after an owner’s death. Understanding these terms is a critical aspect of planning for your digital assets in your will.

The terms of service can vary drastically from one platform to another. Some platforms, like Facebook, have a provision for appointing a ‘Legacy Contact’ – a trusted person who can manage specific aspects of your account after your death. This could include writing a pinned post for your profile, responding to new friend requests, and updating your profile picture and cover photo. However, they won’t be able to post as you or see your messages.

On the other hand, certain platforms may offer an option to memorialise the account, turning it into a digital monument of sorts, where loved ones can continue to share memories and tributes. Yet, there are also platforms that may choose to permanently delete your account upon your death, erasing your digital presence from their platform entirely.

Understanding these varied policies is crucial, as they can significantly influence how you plan for these assets in your will. You might want to consider factors such as whether you would like your account to be memorialised, deleted, or managed by a designated contact. It’s also essential to communicate these preferences to your chosen digital executor or include specific instructions in your will.

In essence, by recognising and understanding the terms of service of each digital platform you use, you can make more informed decisions about your digital legacy. You can ensure that your wishes align with the platform’s policies, facilitating a smoother transition and management of your digital assets after you’re gone.

3. Selecting Beneficiaries

The process of estate planning not only involves identifying and inventorying your assets, but also deciding who stands to inherit them. While this decision-making process is straightforward for tangible and financial assets, it becomes a bit more nuanced when it comes to digital assets.

A range of digital assets exist, each holding different degrees of financial and emotional value. Financial digital assets, like online bank accounts or digital wallets containing cryptocurrencies, might naturally be passed on to your heirs or beneficiaries. The distribution of these assets may be guided by factors such as the beneficiary’s financial need, the asset’s monetary value, and its potential for appreciation or depreciation. For example, digital currencies, known for their volatility, could significantly appreciate or depreciate in value over time, and this aspect should factor into your decision-making process.

The assignment of personal digital assets, such as digital photos, emails, social media accounts, or blogs, however, requires a more nuanced approach. These assets, often rich with sentimental value, form an integral part of your digital legacy. When selecting beneficiaries for these assets, you must consider not only who would value them most but also who has the emotional capacity and technical savvy to manage them. For instance, an archive of digital photos might be best left to someone who cherishes those memories, while a blog could be bequeathed to someone who appreciates your written work and can ensure its preservation.

In some cases, you might wish to assign different beneficiaries for different types of assets within the same digital platform. For instance, within a Google account, you might want your emails to go to one individual, your Google Drive documents to another, and your Google Photos to a third party.

Ultimately, the process of selecting beneficiaries for your digital assets should be guided by careful consideration and an understanding of the unique nature of each asset. By doing so, you can ensure that your digital legacy is preserved and appreciated in the way you intended.

4. Storing Access Information Securely

The digital world, while offering a myriad of conveniences, is also rife with security challenges. One of the most crucial aspects of planning for digital assets is ensuring that your beneficiaries can access these assets when the time comes. This means they will need your login credentials – a combination of usernames, passwords, and possibly answers to security questions. Consequently, it becomes essential to devise a secure method to store and share this sensitive information.

While technology has advanced, sometimes the simplest methods can prove to be the most effective. Writing down your login credentials on paper may seem like an antiquated approach, but it can be a highly secure method if managed appropriately. This could involve storing the document in a secure location such as a safe or a locked drawer. Additionally, you could entrust it to a lawyer or place it in a secure deposit box. You need to ensure that your chosen digital executor knows of its existence and location.

On the other hand, you might consider leveraging digital solutions to this challenge. A digital password manager is a tool that stores and organises your passwords securely. These tools typically require a master password, which grants access to the stored login credentials. If you opt for this method, it’s crucial to ensure that your digital executor or a trusted individual can access the master password upon your passing. Some password managers offer emergency access features that allow trusted contacts to access your vault in case of unexpected situations.

Regardless of the method you choose, it’s important to remember that this information must be kept up-to-date. As you change passwords or create new accounts, your stored information should reflect these changes. In essence, securely storing access information is a critical step in digital estate planning. It allows your beneficiaries to access your digital assets seamlessly, ensuring your digital legacy is preserved and passed on as per your wishes.

5. Legal Regulations and Restrictions

The digital world is still relatively new and, as such, many legal systems are lagging behind when it comes to laws and regulations governing digital assets. Consequently, these assets often fall into a legal grey area, making their management after death somewhat challenging. The laws governing digital assets are not universal and can vary significantly from one jurisdiction to another.

For instance, some areas may have specific laws in place that allow an executor to gain access to the deceased’s digital assets, while others may strictly limit access, regardless of the decedent’s wishes. This disparity can complicate the process of bequeathing digital assets and pose significant challenges to executors and beneficiaries trying to access these assets.

Moreover, the terms of service agreements for many digital platforms may not allow for the transfer of assets upon death, thereby further complicating the situation. For example, some social media platforms have clauses stating that the account is non-transferable, which means that rights to the content of the account terminate upon the death of the user.

Given the complex nature of digital asset law, it’s essential to consult with a legal professional who has expertise in this field and is familiar with the specific laws in your location. They can provide valuable guidance and help you navigate the legal landscape, ensuring that your wishes regarding your digital assets are not only clearly articulated but also legal and enforceable. They can also help you understand the implications of the terms of service agreements of your digital platforms and how these may impact your estate planning.

In essence, while planning for the inheritance of digital assets can be a complex process, it is certainly not insurmountable, especially with the right legal guidance. It’s an important step in estate planning in our increasingly digital world.

6. Designating a Digital Executor

In today’s digital age, our lives are increasingly intertwined with the online world. As such, our digital assets, ranging from social media accounts, emails, digital photographs, to online banking, and even cryptocurrencies, have become an integral part of our legacy. Consequently, just like we designate executors to handle our physical estates, it has become equally critical to appoint a trusted individual as a ‘digital executor.

A digital executor is someone you entrust with the task of managing your digital footprint after your demise. This person will be responsible for executing your wishes regarding your digital assets as per your will or other estate planning documents. Their responsibilities may include accessing your online accounts, distributing digital assets to the designated beneficiaries, closing down certain accounts, or even memorialising social media profiles as per your wishes.

Choosing the right person as your digital executor is vital. Given the nature of the role, the individual should be not only trustworthy and reliable but also fairly tech-savvy. They should be comfortable navigating the digital world, understanding the nuances of various online platforms, and be able to handle potential challenges that might arise in accessing and managing digital assets.

Moreover, laws regarding digital executors vary widely across different jurisdictions, and not all areas recognise the concept of a digital executor. Therefore, it’s crucial to seek legal advice to ensure your digital executor is able to legally perform their duties.

7. Addressing Privacy Concerns

As we live more of our lives online, we accumulate a vast array of digital assets, many of which hold sensitive and personal information. This sensitivity heightens when considering the process of bequeathing these digital assets in your will, as there are significant privacy implications to address. For instance, let’s consider you decide to leave your personal computer or smartphone to a loved one. These devices often contain a wealth of personal and sensitive information, from financial documents and personal emails to private photographs and messages. This information extends not only to your own privacy but also that of others who may have shared information with you.

Before passing on these devices, it’s critical to manage these digital files appropriately to protect privacy. One approach would be to delete sensitive files permanently. This could include personal correspondence, financial statements, or any other private data that you wouldn’t want to be accessible. It’s important to remember, though, that simply deleting a file may not permanently remove it from the device, so you may need to employ secure deletion tools or methods. Alternatively, you could choose to encrypt sensitive files. Encryption converts data into a code that can only be accessed with a decryption key. This way, even if the device is bequeathed, the sensitive files remain inaccessible without the key.

Furthermore, it’s crucial to consider privacy when dealing with digital assets like email accounts or social media profiles. Think about what kind of personal or sensitive information these accounts may contain and who you would be comfortable having access to this information. This aspect should guide your decisions when selecting your digital executor or beneficiaries for these assets.

In essence, addressing privacy concerns is an integral part of estate planning in the digital era. By taking the time to carefully manage your digital assets, you can ensure your privacy and that of others is respected and maintained, even after you’re gone.

8. Access to Digital Financial Assets

Digital assets like online banking accounts, investment portfolios, and cryptocurrency wallets, often have stringent security measures in place that go beyond a simple username and password. Accessing these digital assets often involves a multi-layered security process. This could include security questions, multi-factor authentication, and biometric identification. Multi-factor authentication, for instance, might involve a combination of something you know (like a password), something you have (like a mobile device to receive an OTP), and something you are (like a fingerprint or facial recognition). Given these complexities, simply passing on a username and password may not be enough.

When planning for these assets, it’s essential to consider all aspects of the access process. Ensure your executor or beneficiaries have access to any devices or email accounts associated with these assets, especially if they’re needed for multi-factor authentication. Make a note of any additional security information they might need to gain access. It could also be beneficial to write down clear, step-by-step instructions to help them navigate the process. Often, these security measures are subject to change. Financial institutions and cryptocurrency platforms frequently update their security protocols to combat evolving threats. Therefore, it’s crucial to regularly update your estate plan to account for these changes.

In essence, the process of bequeathing digital financial assets can be complex due to the high-security measures in place. However, with careful planning and regular updates, you can ensure these valuable assets are securely and smoothly passed on to your chosen beneficiaries.

9. Providing Clear Instructions

Consider a social media profile. These platforms often give users the option to either delete the account permanently or memorialise it after their passing. A memorialised account can serve as a digital space for loved ones to remember and share memories about you. On the other hand, deleting the account can ensure that your personal information is not left online indefinitely. The choice between these options is deeply personal and should be made explicit in your digital estate plan. Similarly, email accounts often contain a mix of personal and professional communications, financial documents, and other sensitive information. You might choose to have these emails archived for posterity or deleted to protect your privacy. Again, these instructions should be detailed and clear.

The same applies to digital assets like blogs, websites, or digital artworks. You may want them to remain online as a testament to your work or taken down to respect your privacy. Providing clear instructions extends to the method of accessing these assets as well. If there are specific steps to be followed or security measures to be aware of, these should be included in your instructions.

Leaving clear instructions for each of your digital assets is a critical aspect of digital estate planning. It ensures your digital legacy is managed according to your wishes and provides guidance for your digital executor or beneficiaries during what might be a difficult time. By taking the time to articulate your wishes, you can provide peace of mind for your loved ones and ensure your digital life is handled with the same respect and care as your physical one.

10. Make sure your executor is comfortable with the will

Digital assets can span a broad spectrum, from social media accounts and email archives to digital currencies and online businesses. Managing these assets posthumously can be complex. It involves understanding different platforms’ terms of service, handling sensitive access information, and carrying out your wishes regarding each asset. As such, the executor must be comfortable with these responsibilities and capable of executing them effectively.

Clear communication with your executor is key. Make sure to discuss your digital assets in detail, outlining your wishes for each one. For example, you may want some social media accounts deleted while others are memorialised. Or you may wish to have certain digital files saved and others erased. By expressing these wishes clearly to your executor, you can ensure they understand and are comfortable with their role. Provide your executor with all necessary information to access and manage your digital assets. This might include usernames or account IDs, though for security reasons, it’s generally not advisable to share passwords. Instead, consider using a secure password manager that allows emergency access or a similar feature.

Maintaining an up-to-date inventory of your digital assets can significantly ease your executor’s task. This list should include all your digital assets, from social media accounts to digital wallets. Regularly updating this list can help ensure that no asset is overlooked.

By taking these steps, you can ensure that your digital legacy is managed according to your wishes, providing peace of mind for both you and your executor.

11. Have a consultation with a solicitor about your will

Consulting with a solicitor or legal professional is a crucial step to ensure your wishes are properly documented, legally enforceable and in compliance with the relevant laws and regulations.

A solicitor specialising in digital estate planning can provide you with the necessary guidance and expertise. They can help you understand the legal implications of your digital assets, whether it’s your online financial accounts, social media profiles, digital photo albums or a portfolio of cryptocurrencies. The legal landscape surrounding these assets is often complex and can vary significantly from one jurisdiction to another. For instance, some digital assets might be considered personal property, while others might fall under intellectual property rights. Similarly, while some platforms may allow you to appoint a digital heir, others might simply close your account upon your demise. A solicitor can navigate these complexities, ensuring that your will is both comprehensive and compliant.

A solicitor can also help you articulate your wishes for each digital asset clearly and unambiguously. They can assist in drafting detailed instructions for your digital executor, ensuring that there’s no room for interpretation. Whether you want your social media accounts memorialised, your digital documents archived, or your email accounts deleted, these wishes can be clearly articulated in legally sound language. A solicitor’s guidance for passing digital assets can be invaluable.

FAQ

faq for digital assets in a will

What are digital assets?

Digital assets include any piece of content or media that exist in a digital form and come with the right to use. They range from your personal data like emails, digital photographs, and social media accounts, to digital property such as digital currencies, online bank accounts, and digital intellectual property.

Why should I include digital assets in my will?

Digital assets can have significant financial or sentimental value. Including them in your will ensures that they are managed according to your wishes after your death. This can protect the financial value of assets and preserve the sentimental value for loved ones.

Can I leave my social media accounts to someone in my will?

Yes, most social media platforms have policies that allow for the management of accounts after death. The specifics vary by platform, so it’s important to review each platform’s policy.

What is a digital executor?

A digital executor is a person you designate in your will to handle your digital assets after your death. They are responsible for executing your wishes as laid out in your will, from closing accounts to transferring assets.

How can I securely share my login information with my executor?

You can use secure methods like a password manager with emergency access or a digital legacy tool. Never include this information directly in your will, as it becomes a public document after your death.

How do I handle digital assets that have monetary value, like cryptocurrencies?

These should be handled in the same way as traditional financial assets. It’s important to record the existence of these assets and provide necessary access information to your executor.

What happens if I don’t include digital assets in my will?

If you don’t include digital assets in your will, they may be inaccessible after your death, potentially causing financial loss and emotional distress for your loved ones. Some assets may also be deleted or fall into the wrong hands.

Can I dictate what happens to my email accounts in my will?

Yes, you can specify whether you want your emails to be deleted, saved, or transferred to someone else. However, the ability to carry out these wishes may depend on the terms of service of the email provider.

What should I do about my digital assets that are stored in the cloud?

You should record the existence of these assets and provide necessary access information to your executor. Additionally, specify in your will how you want these assets to be handled.

Do different countries have different laws about digital assets in wills?

Yes, laws governing digital assets vary worldwide. It’s important to consult with a legal professional who is knowledgeable about digital assets in your specific location.