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Digital assets - how can you prepare for the future? Leah Vincent of Willans LLP

By Leah Vincent, solicitor at Willans LLP 

From social media profiles and email accounts to cryptocurrency and photographs posted online, digital assets are playing an increasingly important role in our lives.

However, when you're no longer around, accessing your online information can pose a difficult challenge for loved ones, as well as the executors of your will.

So, what can you do to prepare, and to make it easier for those you leave behind?

Plan in advance

Firstly, consider whether you want to pass on any of your digital assets. If so, you can start planning now by thinking about the accounts you have. For example, is there a function to nominate a trusted individual to take the account over when you're no longer here?

It's also worth considering your will in the context of digital assets. Do any changes need to be made? Are you happy for those you have appointed as your executors to access your online accounts and any information that may be stored there?

Keep records

It's important to strike a balance between securing your accounts during your lifetime, alongside making your executors aware of the digital assets you have, so they can be prepared.

Keep a log of your 'online life' and consider filing usernames and passwords separately or using a digital password manager. This is critical for cryptocurrency, which cannot be retrieved without the 'key' to your crypto wallet.

However, your executors will need to be careful not to break the law by accessing your accounts after your death; it's strongly recommended they seek legal advice when the time comes.

You may also wish to leave your executors instructions in your will as to how you want your digital assets to be distributed, stating how you would like your social media accounts to be dealt with. For example, a Facebook account can be deleted after death or memorialised. Each social media platform has a different approach, so it's worth checking their terms and conditions.

Stay up to date

While there isn't a legislation (in England and Wales) on how to deal with your online footprint or digital assets after death, the Law Commission has published a consultation paper which contains new proposals to reform the law.

Until such time, we recommend reviewing your will regularly to ensure you keep up to date with your assets, both tangible and digital, so that your affairs are always in line with your wishes.

Should you need any help with updating your will or planning for the future, our wills, trusts & probate team will be on-hand to speak to one-on-one after a free Cheltenham Literature Festival event called 'Last Wishes' on Monday 10 October. The event takes place at the Huddle venue in Montpellier Gardens at 11.15am on Monday.

You can also contact Leah Vincent on leah.vincent@willans.co.uk or 01242 541561.

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