Accessing digital assets after someone dies

Rebecca Parr  23-09-2021

Digital assets can be a personally and financially valuable part of your estate, so how do you ensure that your loved-ones can access the data required, after you are gone. 

The problem has been highlighted recently by a study conducted by the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners and Queen Mary University of London. This study revealed that around a quarter of people confirmed they had clients who had faced problems trying to access digital assets of a family member who has died.

 

What are digital assets?

Digital assets are assets which exist only in electronic form and can include:

  • social media accounts
  • digital photographs
  • cryptocurrencies 
  • internet domain names.

Clearly some types of digital assets can be worth a great deal financially and they could form an important part of a deceased person's estate. 

There would also undoubtedly be assets which are of great sentimental value to family and friends.

 

Why do problems with digital assets arise?

The STEP report concluded that there is a lack of clarity around property rights relating to digital assets, and that there needed to be a clear rules around property rights and rights of access by personal representatives in order to enable effective estate planning and administration. 

This has resulted in a call by probate practitioners to change the law on access to digital assets generally.

STEP has called for companies which manage or control online data, such as social media companies, cloud providers, crypto financial institutions and others, to work constructively with solicitors to make the process  of obtaining access to digital assets less fraught.

The law regarding digitals assets is currently being reviewed by the Law Commission of England and Wales.  The government has asked the commission to “ensure that the law is capable of accommodating both cryptoassets and other digital assets in a way which allow the possibilities of this technology to flourish”.

Until the reviews are finalised, solicitors will have to continue addressing this problem with clients and grieving families, which could lead to delays and increased costs.

 

How should I protect my digital assets?

If you want to ensure that your family or executors do not have any issues dealing with your digital assets after your death, you should ensure that the necessary usernames, passwords, and any other identification requirements are discussed with your solicitor when you make your will. 

Contact us today to find out how we can help. 

 

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