Despite our best efforts, we are very much in the digital age. The reach of social media is vast and encompasses virtually every aspect of our lives. We record our activities, thoughts and feelings for the world to see at the mere click of a button.
A recent survey found that our digital assets have an approximate value of £25 billion, and given the trend of reliance upon digital goods, this is likely to continue rising. Our digital footprint exists from our first moment to our last; so is it wise to consider our digital legacy when we are no longer here?
The UK has no formal legal definition of a "digital asset". Most would define it as any information that exists in digital form, a vast and all-encompassing definition.
If we consider our typical day, the use of digital media is huge. We send messages, post photos and stream music; all of which resides in ‘cyberspace'. But what happens after our death? Without action on your part, nobody would have any way to make use of your digital property. Does this not seem a waste?
By the same logic that states it is wise to make arrangement for what should happen to your estate upon death, it now stands to rise that the plight of the millennial is to also consider their digital property. Some of this property may have actual financial value, and many assets will likely have an emotional value which you may wish to be passed to those who survive you. Some digital information may have implications to tangible property, such as the password to your laptop.
The social media accounts which depict our every move can become memorials after we are gone, or simply taken offline. Facebook has a feature which allows the user to nominate somebody to receive access to the account upon their death thus allowing friends and family to interact still.
Bruce Willis was supposedly making arrangements in 2012 to ensure his music collection stored digitally could be passed to his children. This turned out to be ‘fake news' but still raised question marks as to the relationship between digital possessions and the law of wills and probate.
Clearly, this is a relatively new issue, and whilst law is often not definitive, it certainly is not here. However, our advice for dealing with your digital estate is:
- Never presume people know what digital property you have. Make a list of all your assets, including any passwords and other pertinent information, and refer to the list in your will or annexe it to it.
- Keep your digital property information in a safe place, and ensure the person you have chosen to deal with it can access the property. Use of a password manager or database may prove useful, and the nominated receiver of your digital property then only need remember one password.
- Discuss with the person you have nominated what you would like to be done on your death with the property. For example, you may wish for some property to be destroyed.
- Where there is an option to create a memorial on your social media account, discuss with the nominated person your wishes and any message you would like to be left.
- Create or update your will, and remember, do not forget digital property!
Robertsons have experts on hand to guide you through the Will making process. Call us on 029 20237777 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to make an appointment.