Estate planning usually involved adding assets such as personal belongings, jewellery, cars and property, but rarely do people consider the distribution of online assets when sorting their estate. Why is it vital to remember digital assets when putting together your estate plan in a world where NFTs are being seen as the new normal? With £1.25 billion of unclaimed assets sitting in banks, building societies, stocks and shares, it makes you wonder how much more there is lying unclaimed in digital wealth.
What are digital assets?
It’s estimated that around 93% of people that leave a will do so without including their digital assets. Indeed, only 25% are actually aware of what will happen to those assets after they die. This might not have been an issue years ago but in the modern world, it could be a very expensive commission to make.
A digital asset refers to anything stored in binary format. This could be anything from email and social media accounts to domain names and cryptocurrencies (yes, including PayPal). If you have any form of digital currency in your possession then it would certainly make sense to put provisions in your will for them. But even if you don’t, you run the risk of losing access to social media accounts that might hold millions of treasured memories.
Why should they be added to your estate plan?
According to Law Society of England and Wales president David Greene: “Technology is a huge part of modern life and our digital assets include everything from photos stored online to online banking and email accounts. Photos, social media accounts and emails from loved ones are often just as treasured as physical possessions – and yet very few people understand what happens to their digital assets or why it is important to include them in their will.”
David makes some valid points. Because we live in a very different world now than we did even a decade ago. We now keep most of our private information hidden away on digital devices rather than in sock drawers and behind crates in the attic. If you are considering adding digital assets to your estate plan, however, it might be more complicated than simply leaving your Facebook login to your loved ones. You might need to hire the help of a specialist wealth management firm to help put your affairs in order.
Do I own my digital content?
Of course, when it comes to digital assets, sometimes we don’t actually own them. Not technically anyway. Some content we use on a licence that terminates on death and this is obviously not something that can be bequeathed to a loved one. So, before you add your digital assets to your estate, make sure you’ve sorted out what you own from what you’ve just been given a licence to use.