Dealing with Digital Assets in Wills

 

Dealing with Digital Assets in Wills

Digital Identity Scanner for Cybersecurity

As our lives move increasingly online, so do many of our assets.

Digital photographs and videos, music files, crypto currencies, loyalty points and e-books all fall under the definition of digital assets, which is an item that someone owns in digital format rather than physical form.

However, it looks as though one important aspect of our lives is not keeping pace with this rapid societal change. A survey conducted by the Law Society in 2021 revealed that 93% of respondents who had a will had included no digital assets in it.

Similarly concerning was the fact that only 7% of those surveyed said they fully understood what happened to their digital assets when they died.

Digital assets in wills should be treated in much the same way as other physical assets, and provision should be made for their dispersal when drafting or updating a will.

At Bookers & Bolton, our knowledgeable Will Writing Solicitors have extensive experience drafting wills and can advise you on the best way to deal with digital assets.

When considering what to do with your digital assets, it is important to bear the following points in mind:

  1. Consider which assets have monetary value and which are sentimental. Cryptocurrency, or the proceeds of a PayPal account, for example, have monetary value, while photographs and videos are more personal. You should plan for whom you want to benefit from them accordingly.
  • Not all digital assets can be passed on. Some digital assets are licensed by you rather than owned, which is the case for most social media and music accounts. Passing on the account details for these is likely to be a breach of the terms of use. You should check the details of each business to see what happens in the event of your death.
  • If you haven’t got a will, your digital assets will be treated in the same way as the rest of your estate and passed on under intestacy rules.  Everyone should have a will to ensure their assets, including their digital ones, are distributed according to their wishes.
  • Do not include passwords or usernames in a will. These should be stored securely elsewhere, and beneficiaries should be provided with the information they require to access the relevant accounts.
  • Consult a solicitor. An experienced solicitor can help you complete a digital asset checklist and draft your will to ensure all relevant information is included.

How to deal with digital assets in wills – and indeed under the law in general – will only become more relevant as we increasingly embrace technological change.

Research from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) published in June 2023 revealed that 9% of adults – 4.97 million – owned crypto assets in August 2022. This is compared with 2.3 million (4.4%) in 2021, demonstrating the growing interest in crypto.

The surge in popularity of digital assets has been acknowledged in a recent report (June 2023) by the Law Commission that made a series of recommendations into how cryptocurrencies and other non-tangible assets should be managed.

“The use and importance of digital assets has grown significantly in the last few years,” said Professor Sarah Green, Law Commissioner for commercial and common law. “The flexibility of the common law means that the legal system in England and Wales is well placed to adapt to this rapid growth.

Central to the Law Commission’s recommendations was the creation of a third category of personal property that would include digital assets such as cryptocurrency.

To read the Law Commission’s full report and recommendations for digital assets, please click here.

Wills Solicitors Alton

Our Will Writing Solicitors at Bookers & Bolton have vast experience in helping clients write their wills and will ensure provision is made for any digital assets that you want to include.

We take the time to understand your circumstances and tailor our advice accordingly, ensuring your wishes are met and that your family and friends are looked after when you die.

We can advise on a wide range of Wills and Estate Management matters, including:

  • Simple and complex wills involving trusts.
  • Appointing guardians for your children.
  • Lifetime and post-death Inheritance Tax Planning.
  • Dealing with nil rate band will trusts.
  • The creation, administration and winding up of trusts.
  • Powers of Attorney.
  • Court of Protection work, including appointing a Deputy.
  • Advance Directives (Living Wills).
  • Obtaining a Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration.
  • Administering an estate when someone has died.
  • Applying to the Court for rectification of a will.

If you want to write a Will, or need to update an existing one, Bookers & Bolton can help. To speak to one of our approachable team, call 01420 8288 or email enquiries@bookersandbolton.co.uk.

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