Ask Ollie – Do my Digital Assets pass under My Will?

12 / 05 / 2021

Physical assets (unless used solely for business purposes) such as computers, USB sticks and mobile phones are ‘Personal Possessions’ and will pass under your Will.

Intangible digital assets are more complex. They can be monetary, for example Bitcoins, PayPal, other online accounts, and intellectual property (IP). Such assets would form part of your estate and pass under your Will.  It will be the duty of your executors to ascertain the value of those assets, pay any liabilities and distribute them.  If you wish for your online monetary assets to pass to a specified individual you may therefore wish to include a specific legacy in your Will.  This may be complicated by providers of such assets being located abroad and not recognising your English Will.

E-mail, social media and ITunes accounts are governed by licence agreements so they are not strictly ‘assets’ which can pass under your Will.  However, there are steps which you can take to provide for those to be dealt with. Apple, for example, will delete accounts of deceased users following notification of their death. Because of criticism, Apple have introduced a ‘family sharing’ facility where you can nominate others to share your purchases. Facebook also allow you to nominate a ‘legacy contact’ who has limited powers to update your account following your death. 

It is prudent to make a detailed list of your online assets to be stored with your Will. Your family can then notify the relevant companies after your death.  However, it is inadvisable to list your passwords because if your family attempt to access your online accounts they may, inadvertently, be committing a criminal offence.