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Are Your Digital Assets Protected?

View profile for Allison Kent
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We live in an increasingly digital world but very few of us give any thought about what will happen to our digital ‘assets’ when we die. Indeed, there are still more people who die without a Will than with one – and of the (relatively) few people who do make a Will at all the vast majority give absolutely no thought to their digital assets.

So what are ‘digital assets’? – well, they include digital music, social media accounts, websites, gaming accounts, cloud storage and bitcoins etc. It is not only the commercial value of such assets (e.g bitcoins) but the sentimental value that is important. Lawyers up and down the country can testify that families will often fall out over the sentimental things – Grandma’s favourite cake stand, Uncle Joe’s wartime letters and ... you guessed it – the family photos. Clearly, therefore memories are important to us. Just think how many photos we have stored on our various gadgets – who gets these? how do they get them? how do they know where they are or that they even exist? when we die are these memories lost forever?

For some digital assets it is also a question of whether they are even capable of being passed on – itunes accounts for example which are subject to licence agreements and therefore are personal to the individual account holder. CD and Vinyl record collections can be passed from generation to generation – itunes accounts do not appear to be capable of such easy passage. 

It’s fair to say that the legal profession are running to catch up with the pace of progress in the digital world but the starting point is to make sure that clients consider the issue in the first place.

For instance clients can set up ‘Legacy Contacts’ with Facebook and Google so a named person can access their accounts after their death. It is advisable to compile a digital assets log but care must be taken to ensure that this is stored safely – otherwise the mere existence of such a document creates a golden opportunity for criminals in terms of digital fraud. What measures can be taken to avoid the risk?  Will such measures ever be enough to remove the risk altogether?

As more of our lives are conducted ‘online’ the topic is becoming more and more important and pressing - the Law Society is publishing guidance this summer and maybe some of these questions will be answered as time goes on but it is unlikely that the Law will keep pace with developments – the speed of change in the digital world is staggering. Awareness is essential and as with many things in life preparation is key.

Allison has considerable knowledge and experience in the fields of Wills, Probate and Trusts making her one of the most sought-after practitioners in the area. She is one of a few full members of the Society of Trusts and Estate Practitioners (STEP) which recognises those who are the most experienced and senior practitioners in the field and are recognised as experts to whom others turn for good quality advice.

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