Why do digital assets matter when writing my Will?

Humanity has always pursued growth and evolution throughout history, but we are currently living in a time of unprecedented change. New technologies are developing so fast, and for most of us, everything is now at our fingertips. Whether that be our social media accounts or access to our online stocks and shares, a huge portion of our lives is now embedded in the digital world. We must start to consider how important our ‘digital assets’ are and what may happen to them after we die.

What are digital assets?

Generally, a digital asset is anything that’s stored in a binary format. This can include the following:

  • Your social media accounts
  • Your email accounts
  • Youtube accounts
  • Documents, videos & photographs stored on your phone, laptop, or cloud-based storage
  • Websites that you own
  • Music Libraries (Spotify/Apple Music etc.)
  • Gaming accounts
  • Cryptocurrencies
  • Vlogs/Blogs
  • Non Fungible Tokens (NFTs)

There is a good chance that the majority of you own one or more of the above assets, but have no plans what to do with these once you pass away.

I don’t need a Will as I don’t own anything of high value

Traditionally writing a Will may be associated with older people that own their house outright and have a lot of money in the bank. However, the times are changing and we must consider that it isn’t only physical objects that need to be considered, but our online lives need to be covered too.

Do you stream through Youtube or have an online gaming account with several followers? Perhaps you’ve delved into the world of Cryptocurrency or NFTs? Or maybe you just have sentimental family photos stored online?

Whatever you have going on online, you should seriously think about what may happen to these when you pass away.

Why don’t people consider digital assets when writing a Will

There may be an assumption that, because these assets are not physical like a house or a car, they aren’t significant or aren’t official ‘assets’. This is very wrong. With the pace at which the world is evolving today, more and more of our lives are in the ‘virtual world’.

Consequently, more and more of our assets are becoming virtual assets. Therefore, you must decide what should be done with these assets when you die and leave instructions for your executor accordingly.

Why should I include digital assets in my Will and what happens if I don’t?

There are many reasons why you may wish for someone to be able to access your digital assets after you die. Some of them may have monetary value, such as passwords to access bank accounts. Others may be purely sentimental for you and your loved ones such as social media accounts.

Including digital assets in your Will now can avoid your loved ones facing any additional stresses during probate.

Digital assets are considered a part of their owner’s estate, regardless of if they are mentioned in a Will or not. Any part of a person’s estate that isn’t specifically mentioned in their Will becomes part of their ‘residuary’ estate which would automatically pass onto whoever had been named as the residuary beneficiary.

If you don’t have a Will at all, your digital assets risk being forgotten about or shared along with the rest of your estate according to the rules of intestacy.

If you don’t include digital assets in your Will, it could leave your loved ones unable to access family photos/videos that are saved to your online accounts. Without the right passwords, they could be lost forever. There are other things to consider such as what happens to your social media accounts after you die or who should have access to what accounts.

By Including your digital assets in your Will, you can take control of who has access after you pass away. You may want one person to have access to your financial accounts but a separate person to have access to certain personal accounts or photograph libraries.

The future of Digital Assets

We are seeing the emergence of more types of digital assets in the current world, some of which have the potential to hold incredible value. We believe it looks inevitable that these will become a normal part of everybody’s lives and it is important that we know exactly what value we already own, or will own at some point.

We have all grown up knowing the value of money and goods but there are terms that you may have seen/heard about but have no clue on what value they hold or why they may hold it:

Cryptocurrencies

You have probably heard about Cryptocurrencies by now; such as Bitcoin and some of you may even own some yourself but what are they? Well, they’re essentially digital forms of currency that are secured by Cryptography. Many Cryptocurrencies are decentralised and based on blockchain types of technology, which makes it close to impossible to counterfeit. Put simply it is designed to be spread across many computers to create a super-secure form of currency.

The important thing about Cryptocurrencies is that people use them as investment vehicles and due to this, the price can increase or decrease at an immense rate. If you have bought Cryptocurrency, no matter how much or little, then you should implement this into your Will. That small amount you own today could potentially be worth a lot more in the future.

Non Fungible Tokens (NFTs)

In the digital world, there are 2 kinds of tokens, fungible and non-fungible. Fungible means that 2 or more tokens can have the same value as one another. For example, one Bitcoin has the same value as another bitcoin just like a £1.00 coin has the same value as another £1.00 coin. A non-fungible token however is unique and can’t be replaced by another token.

NFTs are used to represent digital assets such as original online images, videos, memes or Virtual buildings and so on. Remember that hilarious meme you saw on the internet? Well, that could already be an NFT worth thousands or millions of pounds.

We aren’t going to pretend to be experts on them but similar to Cryptocurrencies, an NFT’s value can be extremely volatile, and what may be worth a small amount today could be worth a lot more tomorrow.

If you have bought or plan to buy Cryptocurrency or NFTs then we advise writing these into your Will so they are planned for in the future.

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Wosskow Brown Solicitors

Meet the team

Frazer Foster - Wills, Trusts & Probate Solicitor - Wosskow Brown Solicitors - Sheffield
Frazer Foster
Solicitor
Taiba Choudhry - Solicitor - Conveyancing, Wills, Trusts & Probate - Sheffield
Taiba Choudhry
Solicitor
Antony Exley - Probate Executive
Antony Exley
Probate Executive