Only six percent of people have specifically included their digital assets in their wills, according to a London and Watford-based law firm that surveyed its clients this year.
VWV’s survey found there to be widespread confusion about what rights people have over their digital assets—even though almost every adult in the UK now has them. In an article in the Watford Observer, Megan Seabourne, a partner at the firm, explained what digital assets are. These include email accounts, social media, photographs stored online, digital documents and crypto-currencies.
But how does a person pass on digital assets or ensure that any ‘worth’ is not missed or abused after they die?
In the VWV survey, more than 65 percent of those who had made a will said they planned to update it to include digital assets. Ms Seabourne explained it is a good idea to reference your digital assets in a will, but this does not mean they will be passed on to your heirs as you wish.
One major issue is that the law that covers digital assets and how they are dealt with has not managed to keep up to speed with the change in developments in technology. So while it might be sensible to appoint someone as your digital assets manager in any will you make, this does not cover what the providers of digital content will do—i.e. do they accept a third party taking control of such assets especially when such an appointment could be open to all kinds of abuse?
A digital assets manager would require consent for the ability to reset passwords, for example, or to receive information.
While such considerations exist, Ms Seabourne is still keen to reinforce the message that anyone making a will should think about their digital assets and what they want to happen to them after they die. At the moment, the only practical way of doing this is to pass on log-on details. This, however, might breach user agreements with providers.
Inheritance tax will apply to digital assets that have financial value if an estate exceeds the current threshold for tax purposes. So books or music published on streaming sites, and their sales would be added to the value of an estate.
If you are in the legal profession in the UK, Finders International can locate missing documents so you can distribute an estate to the legal beneficiaries. These can include birth, marriage or death certificates, copies of wills, grants of probate or letters of administration, and copies of decrees absolute. email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.