How do I pass on my digital assets when I die?
- AuthorKirsty Hussien
It is very important that we all consider making a Will, as this enables us to set out where we want our assets to go after our death. As part of this process, many of us also opt to make a record of our digital assets in order to assist our loved ones after our death, this is increasingly important with modern technology changing our way of life.
Previously, a physical paper trail with all of our personal and financial information could be stored in a safe place for loved ones to easily access after our death, but with many providers dealing solely online, this can often complicate matters.
Many of us wouldn’t think to review our digital assets in the same way as we do our physical, more tangible assets, but doing so is crucial to ensuring that our loved ones can easily manage and deal with all our affairs in accordance with our wishes.
There are steps which you may wish to take to ensure that you are leaving clear instructions:
Make a note of exactly what accounts you are holding, both physically and digitally. Most people would automatically list their bank account(s), premium bonds, shareholdings and life assurance policies. However, assets don’t stop there.
For example, you may be holding funds in a Paypal account which would form part of your estate. Would your executors know that you have this account, and more importantly, how to access the funds after your death?
Similarly, many banks such as Monzo, Starling and Revolut operate solely online and offer their own range of savings and investment products to their customers. Without physical bank statements and with all day-to-day activity being carried out via an app, would you be confident that your executors know that these accounts exist?
Some people also choose to invest money in digital Cryptocurrencies/Crypto assets. It is particularly important to include details of any assets held here. Cryptocurrencies work using a technology called blockchain, which is a decentralised system used to manage transactions across a number of different computer systems. Crypto assets are not controlled by one centralised person/governing body, so are therefore not easily traceable in the same way that your typical bank account may be. In addition, Crypto assets are securely stored in a virtual wallet, requiring a mixture of public and/or private keys to access them. Public keys can be accessed by anybody, but private keys are unique to the account holder. With ownership of Crypto assets being pseudonymous to protect the identity of the account holder, there is no way of knowing whether a person owns Crypto assets unless they tell you.
You should keep a record of any online accounts accompanied by any usernames (if applicable) and instructions on how you access them. You may wish to tell your executors what the public and private key details are so that they can access Crypto assets after your death. Alternatively, if your Crypto assets are being managed by an Independent Financial Advisor, you may wish to provide them with a copy of your Will or an accompanying Letter of Wishes which sets out to your executors how you would like your Crypto assets to be administered.
Those thinking of writing a Letter of Wishes should remember that the letter must mirror the contents of your Will, and a Letter of Wishes cannot override a valid Will. Some may wish to transfer the assets into the names of the beneficiaries named in their Will as opposed to their executors selling them to pay their beneficiaries in cash. Failure to leave clear instructions in relation to your digital estate could lead to your executors missing all-important funds.
It is recommended that you review and update all of your assets regularly to ensure that all accounts are included. This would be particularly relevant in respect of digital assets given the likelihood of your password, or other details required to access the accounts, changing more regularly.