Death and Digital Assets – How Can I Protect my Online Assets?

What will happen to my digital assets upon death? In the age of social media and cryptocurrency, this question is being asked time and time again.

Nowadays, it’s becoming more and more unusual that we store things as physical copies. We no longer store our photos on film. Photo albums seem to be a thing of the past. Smartphones are the new cameras. Instead, we store our photos on our phones, on cloud-based storage systems and in Facebook albums.

How then can we guarantee that these precious memories are passed on to our loved ones on our passing?

Digital Assets and the Law

The law governing digital assets in Scotland and the rest of the UK is in its infancy. Other jurisdictions seem to be more advanced. For example, in some US states, you can protect your digital assets by placing them in special trusts, created for this purpose. Over time, Scots law here may well develop along similar lines. For the moment though, you’re on your own when it comes to protecting your digital assets.

What Could Happen to my Online Accounts?

Imagine this scenario. I’m an executor for a friend’s estate. All of my favourite pictures of us are within their Instagram account. I don’t know my friend’s Instagram password and Instagram won’t grant me access without it. This is fair enough I suppose – since they need to protect their consumers data. Unfortunately, as a result, I have no way of accessing our pictures. If my friend had left a list of all of their accounts and passwords, I would be able to access all of our shared memories on Instagram.

What Can I Do to Protect My Digital Assets on Death?

So, what can I actually do to protect my digital assets? If you’ve read David Murray’s Unfun Bucket List, you will know that you should be leaving a list of assets alongside your will. I would suggest that you should also make a list of your digital assets. Whether you store the list online, on a password ‘keychain’, or whether it’s a good old-fashioned piece of paper stored in a safe place. Keeping a list of all your relevant accounts and passwords means that family and friends will be able to access them when the time comes. If you have a business online this is really important if you want to continue trading using the same accounts.

It’s worthwhile looking into the policies of your online accounts. Sometimes they have their own way of transferring account data to your loved ones. Facebook lets you choose a ‘legacy contact’, which allows someone to ‘manage’ your account. This means your legacy contact will have access to your account and any Facebook post that you have made over the years.

Ultimately, it is you that is responsible for the handover of your digital assets. The best way to protect your online assets is to be organised and keep an up-to-date detailed list. But, please remember to tell someone you trust where to find that list!

How Can We Help?

Alongside our Wills service, Gebbie & Wilson are happy to hold the list of your digital accounts. If you would like to discuss protecting your online accounts, phone a member of our team on 01357 520082. You can view Facebook’s legacy policy here.

Have you read David Murray’s Unfun Bucket List yet? If not, or you would like a refresher, the article is linked here.

By Eva Wilkie, LLB (Hons),
Soon to be Trainee Solicitor at Gebbie & Wilson LLP