This article explores what digital assets are, the different types of digital assets out there and how this may be relevant to you and the arrangement of your Will and personal affairs.
What are ‘digital assets’?
While there is no specific legal definition, it is highly likely that (in this day and age) you will possess some form of digital asset. Whether this represents something of monetary value, or purely a sentimental value, it still requires consideration in a will.
Common types of digital assets include: photographs and videos stored online, blogs, e-books, social media accounts and cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. The list goes on, but you get the idea. Essentially, it means it is highly likely that you hold some form of digital asset, no matter how small.
However, aside from the potential monetary value in cryptocurrencies (a discussion for another day) the list of digital assets listed above is far more likely to hold sentimental value alone. It is unlikely that they can be resold and, quite frankly, are only likely to be of interest to your close family and friends.
If your Will is silent on the subject, such digital assets will simply form part of your residuary estate for your personal representatives (the individuals you choose to administer your estate when you pass away) to distribute in accordance with the terms of your Will.
It may be the case, however, that you would prefer such assets to be dealt with separately, or at least for your personal representatives to be made specifically aware of these assets, when you pass away.
Digital assets of purely sentimental value…do I need to do anything?
As mentioned above, if your Will is silent on the matter of digital assets, they will simply form part of your residuary estate. If your personal representatives are not aware of their existence, in many cases, social media accounts will simply become inactive and be closed down after a certain period of time.
Alternatively, if you want to ensure that they are easy for your personal representative to deal with in the way you wish, this should be discussed when you are putting your Will arrangements in place. Certain clauses can be included in your Will to encompass these issues and other steps can be taken to ensure that the existence of various digital assets, online banking facilities and passcodes etc, are made known to your solicitor and / or personal representatives. Many social media platforms also allow nomination of ‘legacy contacts’ who can control limited aspects and visibility of your accounts if you pass away to limit upset for friends and family when accessing their own accounts.
What if I own digital assets that hold more than purely sentimental value?
Certain digital assets, such as blogs, domain names, digital artwork, poetry etc, (again this list is not extensive) could hold significant monetary value.
It is the Intellectual Property in these assets that holds a monetary value. Intellectual Property Rights can exist in intangible property and include copyright, trademarks, designs and patents. If this is the case and you think that there could be Intellectual Property Rights with any of your digital assets and an associated monetary value, then you need to act to protect these.
Depending on the Intellectual Property involved and the type of digital asset, it may be appropriate to appoint separate personal representatives / executors to deal with these assets when you pass away. This will ensure that such assets are dealt with properly and that any existing monetary value is recognised and maximised for the benefit of your chosen beneficiaries (whether the asset is retained or sold), rather than being frittered away or simply forgotten.
Whether you hold digital assets of purely sentimental value, or you think that they hold a monetary value, be it significant or not, this is certainly a topic worth discussing when you are preparing to put Will arrangements in place, to ensure that your wishes are carried out to the fullest extent possible and to ensure that your personal affairs are dealt appropriately when you pass away.
If you would like more information, please visit www.bpe.co.uk or call 01242 224433.
These notes have been prepared for the purpose of articles only. They should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice.