The assets you probably haven’t thought of in your will

There are so many different things to consider when drafting your will.

From dividing up your assets to making sure your family all get a share of your legacy, it can be a real challenge.

But with the emergence of technology, there’s a new raft of assets that you’re probably leaving out of your will without realising.

That’s right, your digital assets are worth considering when putting together your will.

Estate planning experts are seeing more and more cases of digital assets left in limbo because people hadn’t taken them into account.

Paul Paxton-Hall from Paxton-Hall Lawyers explains there are two different kinds of digital assets – your sentimental assets and you financial assets.

Sentimental assets include your social media accounts, photos, videos and emails.

While you don’t necessarily need to include your sentimental digital assets in your will, it’s still relevant to your estate planning because of the issues surrounding the cancellation of your Facebook account.

“With Facebook and Google, they allow for a legacy contact person to be appointed prior to death,” Paxton-Hall said.

“That person is given rights to deal with the account after the death of the person, including memorialisation, deletion or downloading content.

“To access the account under the terms of Facebook and Google’s service agreements, someone has to be appointed before death as a digital heir.”

This important thing you need to do if you have a social media account is to appoint someone as digital heir.

Paxton-Hall said there are millions and millions of people who have died and still have active Facebook account.

“If you haven’t appointed a legacy contact, your family will actually need an order from a US court to authorise deleting the account,” he said.

That’s when the issue can become legal and costly.

So, what about the other more financial digital assets?

Well these can include intellectual property such as books, poems or computer programs – anything worth money that is stored on your computer on the cloud.

It can also include databases, code libraries and cryptocurrency such as bitcoins – although for the majority of us these aren’t likely to be an issue.

Paxton-Hall uses social influencers on social media as an example of these assets.

“If you’re a social influencer, you’re being paid significant amounts of money to advertise something in a Facebook post,” he said.

“Another form of asset is intellectual property, when a person dies issues around the ability to access that intellectual property arise.

“If someone does have assets in the digital world, we think its preferable if valuable assets were owned by a company or a trust.

“If assets are held by a person, they are part of their estate and they pass in accordance with the will, but if they’re not owned by the person in their own name, rather held in a trust, it doesn’t crystalise any transfer issues that would apply in a will.”

According to Paxton-Hall, digital assets can be hard to manage and coordinate.

“Particularly when you consider the average user has 26 different account and 10 unique password to deal with,” he said. 

“When you’re developing a proper plan, you need to understand who owns the asset, where it’s located and how to access it.

“Proper management of digital assets is about more than just wealth. Due to the digital nature of a person’s public online presence, there is the potential for it to remain public indefinitely.

“That’s why it’s crucial to give thought to what you would like to happen with your digital footprint, and to identify any valuable assets that may exist.”

So, how much of this will apply to you?

If you’re a business person or conduct a lot of business on your social media accounts or computer, then it can apply to you.

Paxton-Hall says for the majority of people, the issue is simply the legacy contact arrangements for their social media accounts.

“I think for most people the issue is just informing people of the needs to have in place this legacy contact arrangement, for most people the issue is Facebook and Instagram, and that is quite easily handed,” he said.

“If it’s not handled then there is a problem.”

Have you ever given thought to your digital assets?

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your financial or legal situation, objectives or needs. That means it’s not financial product or legal advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a financial or legal decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get independent, licensed financial services or legal advice.

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