STEP (the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) has recently launched a new campaign to encourage people to protect their sentimental digital assets. STEP’s research from last year suggests that a quarter of respondents had clients who had experienced difficulties accessing their loved ones’ digital assets, and developing the public’s understanding in this area is therefore important.
But how can you ensure, when making a Will, that your digital assets will be passed on in accordance with your wishes and expectations?
The first priority is to check that the social media platform you use (if it is a social media account you wish to pass on) has ‘legacy settings’ that you can enable. Some social media platforms allow account holders to nominate a “legacy contact“ to take control of their account, once they have enabled the relevant settings, but social media companies’ policies vary and STEP have produced very good guidance in this regard (see here) which you may wish to review.
It is also important to speak to family members about how you would like them to manage your digital assets after your death, and to consider putting your wishes in writing to avoid any confusion. It would be prudent to inform family of which social media platform you use, and how you would like your digital memories to be passed on.
Finally, when making your Will, it is important to consider the manner in which “intangible assets“ such as digital memories will pass. The definition of “personal chattels“ was widened in 2014 to (broadly) include all of a deceased’s tangible assets, but “personal chattels” are nonetheless still limited to tangible assets, unless the definition of personal chattels is amended in your Will so that it includes intangible as well as tangible assets. If your wishes are for your digital memories to be dealt with in the same way as your tangible assets, and under the same Will provisions (for example you may wish for both tangible and intangible assets to be distributed by your executors in accordance with your written wishes), you should consider amending your Will to ensure that tangible and intangible assets will all be treated in the same way.
Should you wish to discuss digital assets in further detail, or wish to update your Will in order to include your digital assets, our Private Client team would be happy to assist.