Whether you store all your photos on the iCloud or run a business on ebay, it’s important to understand what would happen to these assets when someone dies.
Thinking about who will receive your physical asses when you die is no longer enough. Outside of maybe a house and a car, for many of us, ‘digital assets’ represent some of the most significant things in our lives. The definition of a digital asset varies, but includes:
• Physical hardware - a laptop, mobile phone, a digital camera or a hard drive full of photo’s.
• Online accounts – Facebook, twitter, email accounts, subscription services such as NetFlix or Spotify and cloud storage accounts.
• Online gaming accounts and profiles.
• Online financial accounts – PayPal, online only bank accounts, betting or stock trading accounts.
• Professional profiles, websites, domain names and blogs.
Unlike a car or a jewellery box, it’s entirely possible that in the event of someone’s death their family a) may be completely unaware of some digital assets or b) find that accessing them (to download files, manage accounts or end subscriptions) proves very difficult.
What do you need to think about?
1) Who would you want to receive your digital assets and whether are they something that you can ‘pass on’? All online accounts will provide you with terms of service that cover what happens when a user dies (I can send you a list of the main ones, just email me firstname.lastname@example.org). The long and short of it is that some digitally held assets may be difficult for your family to access and some accounts end on your death – **Including iCloud** - so cannot be given away in a Will.
2) You should consider who you would want to administer your digital assets? Consider whether they have the necessary ability to carry out this role and if you would be happy for them to have access to the content (think photo accounts and online profiles)?!
3 )Consider whether you would want anyone to be able to access your digital assets if you were unable to access them yourself because of illness or injury? Do you run a forum or have a profile that you would want to be suspended, closed or managed on your behalf? If you do, you should consider making a lasting power of attorney giving someone you trust access to your digital assets or the power to continue running your online business.
What practical steps can you take?
You know how difficult it can be if you have trouble logging in to one of your own accounts, so imagine how much trickier it would be for someone else – especially someone without the necessary skills to deal with different online platforms. Fortunately, there are some simple steps that you can take to secure your digital assets.
1) Make physical copies (or download locally) any essential files that are currently in cloud storage only.
2) Make a list of all accounts, usernames and passwords. Make sure that you keep the list updated. It is important that the list is secure (whether stored electronically or physically). You could choose to store this list online and then store the password to the document with your Will at a secure facility.
3) Make someone aware of where the list is and how it can be accessed - you could do this within your Will.
When it comes to making a Will, not doing anything is usually the worst option. It's important to organise your digital assets so that they are accessible for someone else and to ensure that you don't lose sentimental items that are stored online. As time goes on and more assets move online, there is a real risk that valuable assets (domain ownership, online financial accounts etc) could be completely missed by your executors if you don't make them aware of their existence.