In recent years, there has been a massive increase in information, possessions and assets being held online.

Over 3 million people in the UK now hold cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, which can be substantial in value.

For the owners of these assets, they alone will hold the necessary passwords to access such digital assets.

Whilst important for security, this can cause concern when it comes to providing for your loved ones after you have passed.

It is important to consider both your physical and digital assets when preparing your Will; otherwise, your digital assets could end up lost forever.

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What are digital assets?

Digital assets include any of your possessions which exist in a digital format.

This includes anything held on your computer, mobile or other electronic devices. 

Digital assets which have monetary value can include:

  • Payment accounts, e.g. Paypal account
  • Cryptocurrencies, e.g. Bitcoin and Ethereum 
  • Online gaming credits
  • Monetised social media accounts
  • Unpublished manuscripts 
  • Graphics and digital artwork, e.g. NFTs 

They can also have solely sentimental value, like pictures, videos and messages. 

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What will happen to my digital assets when I die?

If you die without leaving a Will

If you die without a valid Will in place, your digital assets will pass by the rules of intestacy along with the rest of your estate.

In this case, if you have not informed your relatives of these assets' existence, they may never be recovered.

It may also result in your digital assets passing to someone who you do not wish to have access to them, for example, for privacy reasons.

There have been examples of spouses inheriting and then accessing phones to find photographs indicating the deceased had an affair which can leave a bitter taste on an already sad and stressful event.

If you do leave a Will

If you leave a Will and have not included specific provisions for your digital assets, they will pass onto your residuary beneficiaries.

If you fail to leave instructions for your personal representatives on accessing your digital assets, they will have to contact the company with which the account is held.

These organisations often have stringent policies that could prevent your representatives from accessing your digital assets. 

By including your digital assets in your Will, you can specify how you want your accounts to be managed or whether you want any private information to be destroyed. 

If your personal representatives are unfamiliar with complex digital assets, they may struggle to arrange for their sale once you pass.

They may require advice from experts to deal with these or the appointment of separate executors to deal with digital assets.

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How can I ensure my digital assets are not lost when I die?

Preparing an up-to-date inventory of digital assets to accompany your Will is helpful.

This should include a list of the assets held and instructions on accessing your digital accounts.

Your Will and the inventory of digital assets should specify who will inherit each of your digital asset

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Contact Our Wills, Trusts, and Probate Team

Our Wills, Trust, and Probate team are well versed in dealing with digital assets and complex estates, including the preparation of Wills and assisting with estate administration.

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