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Estate Planning and Digital Assets

22 February 2018 Written by Davidson Shirley Solicitors Category: Blog

People are increasingly living their lives online and the question of how someone’s digital assets and accounts should be handled after their death has become the subject of some debate. 

Many people now hold social media accounts, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, as well as email and cloud storage accounts. A considerable amount of personal data builds up on these accounts, including irreplaceable items such as photos and messages from loved ones.

In addition, many people now do their banking online and often all records of this are held digitally rather than on paper. Information on these accounts obviously needs to be kept confidential, but in some cases it appears people are choosing to not even make loved ones aware of online financial assets. Recent research by Bank of Scotland revealed that half (50%) of adults in Scotland with important financial information online haven’t told their next of kin about these accounts.

This increased reliance on digital information and the secrecy associated with it can cause problems for estate executors, who have the responsibility of winding up the deceased’s estate.

Some experts therefore recommended that as part of the estate planning process, you should list all your digital assets and set out what you would like to happen to them when you have gone.

Obviously any financial assets will need to be included in your estate listing, but the situation is less clear cut with regards to social media accounts. You should therefore specify whether you would like your executor to be able to access these accounts or if you would like for them to be deleted.

To facilitate the winding up of your estate you should also leave details of how to access your accounts and hold this information, along with your will, in a secure place that the executor will be able to access when the time comes.

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