When mulling over what we wish to include in our Will our digitally lives can easily be overlooked. But so many of our most important financial and sentimental assets now exist in this space. Today we take a look at some of the most common virtual assets that should absolutely be in your Will along with some helpful tips regarding what you can do right now to secure your digital legacy.
Once popularly viewed as a joke or scam, cryptocurrencies have recently experienced a rise in legitimacy. Early adopters have amassed vast wealth in a short space of time with the secretive creator of bitcoin Satoshi Nakamoto believed to hold $73 billion worth of the digital currency. NFTs (non-fungible tokens) have also experienced an explosion in popularity in the last couple of years with one token selling for an extraordinary $91 million in 2021. The rise of decentralised currencies has created a headache for investors though. Without a plan, investors could leave their loved ones locked out of their inheritance.
The nature of the assets mean digital keys are needed to access the currency. But how can we keep these keys secure? Crypto holders have devised a variety of methods:
- Writing down their keys on a piece of paper or in a cold storage hardware wallet and keeping them in a safe deposit box or vault
- Hiring professional services to manage their crypto for their successors such as Coincover
- Keeping the crypto on trading exchanges like Binance and Coinbase
- Using an online password manager such as 1password or LastPass
Are you an avid music nut or film buff? Many of us have amassed a array of records, CDs, films over time. Today, however, it is much more common for us to hold our vast collections of books, movies and videogames digitally. Perhaps we have a loved one who shares our passion and to whom we would like to pass on our prized collection. It may come as a surprise then to learn that we most likely do not actually own our digital media collections. The vast majority of digital assets are not owned by the consumer and are licensed is stipulated in the terms and conditions to terminate on death.
That’s not to say that your digital collection has no value. In fact you may be sitting on a virtual goldmine if you are part of the ever expanding online gaming world. Online videogame accounts, avatars and in-game items are frequently traded for real world money. Some of these in game items can become extremely valuable with items such virtual weapons and costumes commonly being exchanged for thousands. In 2011 a digital planet in the online video game Entropia was purchased for £4.9 million!
Social media accounts
So many of us post our entire lives online. Some of us even make a living via social media, with the biggest Instagram influencers such as Eleonora Pons and Charli D’Amelio raking in more than $100,000 per sponsored post. With this in mind it is important that arrangements are make to ensure that these accounts are managed properly after death.
To prevent loved ones having to struggle to close a social media page one important thing you can do is right now is to utilise some of the useful tools that major social media platforms provide. Facebook and Instagram will allow you to choose a legacy contact who can oversee your account if you want it memorialised when you pass away. Other platforms , however, such as Twitter, Pinterest and Youtube are currently less straightforward and require a copy of the death certificate to close an account.
We all like to think of ourselves as savvy shoppers and joining a loyalty scheme can be a great and easy way to save some serious cash. However, as to whether or not these points can be passed on to loved ones comes down to the conditions of each scheme and the procedure for doing so differs in each case. That’s why it is important to check the terms and conditions of each scheme before trying to leave them in your will and check with the provider if necessary. For example, Tesco Clubcard, Boots Advantage and Nectar points can be transferred but British Airways’ Avios airmiles points cannot.
Digital photos and data
The days of keeping boxes of photos and video cassette tapes in the attic have long passed and so many of our most treasured memories are now stored digitally in data centres in every part of the globe from Austria to Australia. It is important to put a procedure in place to make sure that your loved ones can access these when the time comes and of the most popular platforms have helpful legacy features to help with this.
Apple recently launched a digital legacy program meaning you can designate up to five people as legacy contacts. These individuals can then access the data stored in your iCloud when you pass away, such as photos and documents. Google also has an inactive account manager can be used to manage your Gmail, Youtube and other Google services.
So what can we do to ensure our digital assets are passed on?
Technology is evolving at a speed and the law is always playing catch-up. There are a number of common pitfalls of which the uninitiated can fall foul. For instance, just making a written record of passwords is technically a breach of contract according to most institutions’ terms and conditions. Also if someone accesses your accounts after your death, even with your permission, they may be committing an offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990.
A basic but important thing that you can do right now is make sure that your loved ones actually know these accounts exist. One important thing to be aware of is to never include account details and passwords within the Will itself. Wills become public documents when admitted to Probate and anyone can apply to have a copy. This means anyone could get their hands on your treasures. Our financial and sentimental ties to the digital realm run deep and dealing with digital assets as part of an estate can be a minefield without proper legal advice from an expert. Once you have taken these simple steps you can go out into the world with peace of mind, knowing that you are a master of the digital realm.