What Happens To Your Digital Estate When You Die?

Preserve your bloodline well being and wealth

Your digital estate is the footprint you’re leaving on line, and it’s growing every day..

Most of those things are not tangible, but they’re all valuable, in different ways. From irreplaceable family photos, to songs and movies, to personal and business communications via online accounts, and likely with several different providers

You probably manage your money, pay taxes, and all the different utility bills, online. That’s fine, dapper and dandy when you’re alive, but what happens to all your digital ‘property’ when you die, or become incapacitated?

So, what are digital assets?

Digital assets

A digital asset is a catchall name for just about anything you have created, or signed-up to, in the digital world. There’s perhaps five main classes of digital assets:

  • Assets with high sentimental value
  • Assets with financial value
  • Assets with intellectual value
  • Assets with social value
  • Assets for you, and you alone (perhaps entirely alone.?)

Then there’s a whole bunch of online service accounts, typically those accessed by a username and password

At this point, blog protocol dictates that we need to provide a list of the bleedin’ obvious, so here goes. Our intern has created this list and even put them in alphabetical order for you, and has suggested we point out the list is not exhaustive:

1 Blogs and domain names
2 Cloud storage platforms
3 Crypto and NFT’s (if you don’t know what it stands for it’s likely you don’t have any!)
4 Email accounts
5 Files and documents
6 Gaming accounts
7 Online bank accounts
8 Online store and shopping accounts
9 Photos
10 Social media accounts
11 Subscription service accounts
12 Utility accounts
13 Websites
14 Your secrets..

When you set up any of these, the provider had ‘terms and conditions’ which you signed up to and those are, at least in part, designed to protect your security and, in particular, prevent unauthorised use of your account

Likely you created a ‘username and password’ that’s known to you, and only you. Providing you can remember both, the system works well during your lifetime, but it’s a barrier for your family when you’re gone

Without that information it’s likely that your family and loved ones will be denied access to your accounts and, worse, the provider may deactivate or delete the accounts, meaning your digital property is lost, for all time

What is digital estate planning?

It’s the process of planning what happens to your digital assets after you die, or become incapacitated

A good digital estate plan ensures that you transfer your digital assets to your chosen beneficiaries, and determine ownership of your digital accounts

When you created your Will (if you haven’t done so, stop reading this, and get on with sorting it!) you appointed Executors to pay your debts, and distribute your assets

You likely didn’t even consider your digital assets, let alone plan for what’s going to happen to them

So, by definition, you haven’t provided ‘authority’ to manage your digital assets or any of the usernames and passwords

You’ve positioned your love ones up the proverbial ‘Shit Creek’, and you’ve taken the only paddle with you!

You might want to rethink that.?

Traditional vs ‘Digital Wills’ and why you need both

Assets you own, can be transferred upon your death using a traditional Will (formally known as Last Will and Testament)

Here’s the thing, most of your online accounts don’t give you ownership rights. All you have is a licence to stream, say, music or movies

Worse, you don’t own your social media accounts, or your emails, which means that when you die, the providers have control

So, you can’t transfer those in your Will (but you can transfer digital assets you own, like a website, intellectual property, manuscripts, blogs, etc)

What is a Digital Will?

It’s simply an inventory of all your digital property with all the necessary instructions as to how to access each of them

It’s just an informal document, with a grand name, and certainly doesn’t have the status and standing of your Will (if you’ve read this far, and ignored my earlier observation, then take 30 minutes on the ‘naughty step’, and go get started on your Will!)

The sole purpose of your Digital Will is to provide the information your family and loved ones needs to access all of your accounts that require usernames and passwords

Which means that they can deactivate your email and social media accounts

Digital assets accessed via user licences

Most of the online companies provide ‘legacy policies’ as part of their Terms & Conditions, you just have to dig deep to find them!

Our Intern has done some cracking research, and come up with a few examples, still working with the alphabetical theme, of course:

 

Amazon If it’s not your personal account then you need to ‘contact customer service’ when the account holder dies. Good luck with that
Facebook Will not provide your login details to any third party! You can provide a ‘legacy contact’ to have your page ‘memorialised’ or removed
Google Has ‘Inactive Account Manager’ which allows you to choose how to deal with your account. Our Intern tells us this works well
Instagram Login details are not available to third parties but there is a legacy contact option and memorialisation (is that a word?) is possible
LinkedIn You can memorialise or close the account but you require ‘permission of the accountholder’. One to include in your Digital Will
Microsoft Has a ‘policy when someone dies’ which deals with most eventualities. Accounts are closed automatically after 2 years

How to create your Digital Will

This is an informal document and there are many ways of doing this. Whatever you do, you must not include it in your Last Will & Testament as that will be available in the public domain after you die!

Here’s one possible track to run on:

 

Create your inventory That’s a comprehensive list of all the sites, etc, where you have accounts. Use a Password Manager, or create a spreadsheet, of all usernames, passwords, security questions and anything else that might be needed
Choose your Digital Executor Any trustworthy person(s) who will carry out your wishes
Create a valid Will Get a lawyer to do this, and make sure it provides specific legal authority to carry out your instructions
Keep your Will safe And make sure it can be found!

 

Next steps – Estates up to £1m

Candidly, if your financial affairs are straight forward, and your total assets don’t exceed, say, £1m, then create your Digital Will yourself, have your lawyer create a valid will that reflects your wishes and recognises your Digital Will, and make sure you keep both safe, and where they can be easily found if the worst happens

Next steps – Larger Digital Estates

First a shout out (anyone remember when we just said ‘thank you’.?) to our Intern, Gerald, she’s done a great job researching for this blog topic

So, next steps..

The UK has one of the most complex tax structures in the world, with around 18,000 pages of tax laws, and nearly 1,000 tax reliefs and allowances. You can’t know them all. That’s a job for our team of Chartered Tax Advisors (CTA’s)

At outset, we ask you to visualise the future you want for your family legacy then, with the help of our team of CTA’s, you work back to today, using informed choices. Our CTA’s provide you with your legacy planning strategy, and all the tools you need to realise your vision

Once your Inheritance Tax planning is finalised, and paid for, you may be invited to become a full member of our Resource Optimisation Program (ROP) where our CTA’s will continue to work with you, to aim to maintain everything for you while you’re alive, and they’ll even handle probate for your beneficiaries when you die, and then work with your children, if that’s what you want..

How’s that for peace of mind..

ROP provides you with 3 options: our CTA’s will implement, maintain and manage everything, or our CTA’s will work with your existing advisors, or you can do it all yourself. That’s ‘Done for you’, ‘Done with you’ or ‘Done by you’

Our ROP* includes a Digital Estate Planning tool which aims to provide the priceless peace of mind you and your loved-ones need..

Contact us HERE to talk to an expert, for FREE

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