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What Happens to your Digital Assets When You Die?

Gary Green
Gary Green
January 17, 2017

Ever wonder exactly what happens to your digital assets when you die?

While no-one likes to think about their own mortality, it is important to have ones assets and affairs in order before the inevitable happens. Part of this involves making proper provision such as having a will in place & minimising the burden placed on loved ones.

However, one issue that many people have not thought about is what happens to their online presence when they die. What about their digital assets? Digital assets can take many forms, such as digital images, digital libraries, email accounts, online banking and online airline / hotel loyalty accounts.

Who Actually "Owns" Your Digital Assets?

Most people mistakenly believe that they own their digital assets. However, in many circumstances they do not ‘own’ the asset but have purchased a lifetime licence to, for example, listen to a downloaded song.

This licence is usually not transferable and ends when the owner dies. This is in part to protect the original artist but in the ‘old days’ a CD could have been passed on to ones nearest and dearest. This issue was in the news before, back in 2012, when it was reported that the actor Bruce Willis was considering suing Apple over his rights to leave his iTunes collection to his children.

This story was reportedly false; however in the future there may be legal challenges which will help resolve these issues.

Digital Assets and Social Media

When it comes to social media accounts the way forward is a little clearer. Facebook, for example offers the chance to memorialise an account. Or maybe you'd prefer to permanently delete the account. Every day around 8,000 Facebook users die. Then there are other social media accounts like Twitter and Instagram to consider.

One solution is to share your online passwords with your family/friends. However, but this can create issues when alive and maybe after death. One suggestion is to make a provision in your will for your digital assets. You can then make clear what you would like to happen to your online presence when you die.

There are also online companies who offer ‘legacy vaults’ where you can decides what you want your estate to do with your digital legacy. This issue will become increasingly important as the amount of digital assets owned by each of us continues to grow.

Contact us or call to discuss this further, we would be happy to help.

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