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Digital Assets

4th February 2022

Make sure your family has access to all your digital properties for when you pass away

This guide delves into what digital assets you have, and also how best to keep a record of these so that your loved ones can access them once you have passed away. It looks at what a digital asset is, what might happen with them if there is no planning in place and finally how best to record these assets so that people can easily find and access these digital assets after your death.

What are digital assets?

A “digital asset” is your online possessions that you access via a digital device, such as a laptop, mobile phone, tablet or computer. Usually, these are accessed via an online account through a 3rd party provider, for example Facebook, YouTube, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Netflix, email and so on. Other digital assets are photos, video and music that are stored online and have to be accessed from a personal account.

There are other actual assets, that aren’t strictly classed as digital assets, that can also be accessed through personal accounts online. Examples of these are bank accounts, pension funds, investments, utilities, loans, credit cards, savings accounts and many more.

It is vital that you put plans in place so that you loved ones can access these accounts, in the event of your death, both for financial as well as sentimental reasons. Imagine if, after your death, your family and friends were unable to find your accounts, photographs and documents. Or after a certain length of time your assets were permanently deleted by the company your digital assets are stored with. To avoid any of this happening, now is the time to make plans, note down details of your various digital assets and to keep them in a safe place that your next of kin knows about.

How you should get started

Firstly, you need to review what assets and information you hold digitally in online accounts. Then you need to record this information, Gale and Phillipson have created a Lifebook that allows you to enter a lot of this information. It is very important that there is a hardcopy (e.g. printed) of this booklet, it is kept up to date (consider reviewing it every 6 months) and your family members know where you safely and securely store it.

Another tool you can use is a password manager service. These secure online accounts allow someone to log all of their online passwords in one place. The common trap that a lot of us fall into with passwords, is using the same password again and again on different accounts. Using a password manager means you can have a different password for all of your online accounts, and you don’t need to remember them separately. This can be very helpful for your executors to log into your password manager account, after your death, and access all of the passwords from there.

What will happen to your digital assets when you die?

After you have figured out what digital assets you have, and logged the details away, the next step is to clarify what would have happened to these assets if nothing was arranged before your death. To do this you should be able to find the terms and conditions you agreed upon after creating the account. These T&Cs can tell you if your assets will be administered on your death, or if the Internet Service Provider (ISP) will permanently delete your account after a certain length of inactivity. Writing this information in your Lifebook will inform your executor to access any accounts before they are deleted. Some providers, such as Facebook and Google, have the ability to allow a nominated person control over certain aspects of your account.

Facebook – Facebook gives you the option to add a ‘legacy contact’ to your account, this contact can make a few changes to your Facebook profile when it becomes ‘memorialised’. A memorialised Facebook account occurs when Facebook is notified of someone’s passing. The profile becomes a tribute to the deceased person and allows friends and family to share memories and stories, as well as see shared photos.

Google – Google offers the function known as an ‘Inactive Account Manager’ which gives a nominated individual the ability to manage the account after an inactivity period is detected.

Create hard copies

To avoid any of your assets getting deleted due to inactivity on your account, you could always create hard copy versions to store elsewhere. This could be via printed documents, downloading images and documents to a USB drive, burning music onto a CD and so on. These could either be given to trusted family members or again kept for safekeeping.

Create hard copies

Another important thing to note down is your login details for any laptops, PCs, mobile phones and other household devices connected to the internet. Apple devices (e.g. iPhones, MacBooks, iPads etc) are notorious for having very strong safeguards to prevent anyone accessing these devices, without logins, to gain entry to all of our data and assets. These details could also be noted down in your Lifebook, but care must be taken to ensure that these details do not fall into the wrong hands.

Reference – BL137-Feb-2022

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Gale and Phillipson Investment Services Ltd, Gale and Phillipson Advisory Services Ltd, Gale and Phillipson General Financial Services Ltd and Gale and Phillipson (SE London) Ltd are all authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (Reference Numbers 431387, 142752, 195080, 195522).  Gale and Phillipson (Herts) Ltd and Gale and Phillipson Consulting Ltd are appointed representatives of Gale and Phillipson Advisory Services Ltd.  Gale and Phillipson (Surrey) Ltd is an appointed representative of Gale and Phillipson Investment Services Ltd. (Reference Numbers 615821, 811525, 703337). All companies trade under the name Gale and Phillipson and are registered in England and Wales numbers 05409822, 02232959, 03751076, 04077157, 08864945 and 04823391.  Registered office for all companies is Gallowfields House, Fairfield Way, Richmond, DL10 4TB.

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