Research has revealed that only a quarter of people know what will happen to their digital assets after their death or why it is important to include them in their Will.
The Law Society commissioned a survey of over 1,000 adults, asking questions about whether they had made a Will. Just 29% of those questioned had an up to date Will. Of those with a Will, 93% had not included any provision for their digital assets.
Just over a quarter knew what would happen to their digital assets when they die with 7% saying that they fully understood and 19% saying they somewhat understood.
What are digital assets?
Digital assets include online accounts, cryptocurrencies, domain names and web content.
They also include items that will be valuable to loved ones, such as photos, emails and social media account content, which can be thought of as a digital presence, rather than digital assets.
Passing on your digital assets
The first step is to make a list of all of your digital assets and also your online accounts, to include social media accounts.
You can make a list of your passwords to keep with your Will, but no sensitive information should be included in the Will itself, as this is likely to be published one day and will therefore be available to the public.
By leaving your passwords, your family will be able to access documents that may be stored online as well as important emails, to include correspondence from financial institutions that you have dealt with on a paper-free basis.
They will also be able to access photos and other personal items that could be comforting for them to have in the future.
You should be aware that some digital items are only held on licence, such as books and music, and when someone dies, they cannot be passed on.
Once you have listed your digital assets, you should decide what you would like to happen to them. Some social media accounts can be memorialised after a death, or you may simply want your account deleted once your family have had a chance to copy any photos they want to keep.
It is important to set out clear instructions and not to assume that your family will know what accounts you have.
Making a Will
By leaving a Will, you can be sure that your loved ones will benefit from your estate in the way that you would want in the future. You can set out who you would like to receive your digital assets or how you would like them to be dealt with.
By leaving a clear Will, you can also avoid disputes and misunderstandings arising between your loved ones when the time comes, as everyone will be clear what your wishes were.
It is also important to review your Will regularly, particularly the digital provisions, as these are likely to change over time. A good rule of thumb is to review a Will every five years or in the light of any major life changes such as divorce or the birth of a child.