Digital assets – what are they and what are you going to do with them?

By November 8, 2018Property Law
digital assets - fox and thomas lawyers

If you are reading this bulletin we can almost guarantee you have some kind of digital asset in one form or another.

What exactly are “digital assets”? 

Digital assets can include:

  1. Any files or information you have stored on, or access using, your digital devices (for example, your computer, camera or smart phone) or stored on cloud based storage (for example Dropbox or iCloud), these files could be: photos; videos; music; movies; and documents.
  2. Any online accounts and services you use, for example:
    1. your email accounts;
    2. your social media accounts (like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn);
    3. your online shopping accounts (like eBay);
    4. any websites or blogs you control; and
    5. any other similar online only accounts (like PayPal).

What happens to your digital assets if you lose capacity or die?

If you lose capacity or die, it will be necessary for someone else, your attorney or executor (legal personal representative or LPR), to manage your digital assets on your behalf.  It can be difficult to identify and access your digital assets. Your LPR will need to determine:

  1. How they can gain access to your digital assets;
  2. What (if any) digital assets can or need to be transferred; and
  3. What digital assets need to be cancelled and how they can go about doing this.

In many circumstances, you may not even actually own the “digital asset” as online accounts often grant you a licence to use their service, which terminate on your death.

How to deal with your digital assets 

We recommend:

  1. Keep a list
    1. Start working on a list of your digital assets, this will help your LPR with where to start.  As a minimum we recommend your list detail the types of digital assets you have, but you may also choose to include in this list additional information like:
      1. usernames;
      2. URLs; and
      3. Passwords, including passwords to your smart phones and tablets (be mindful of how often you update your passwords, the list may become redundant very quickly!).
    2. Be aware of security – you do not want this list to get into the wrong hands, particularly if your passwords are on it!
    3. Keep in mind this list is going to grow overtime, so it is something that will need to be updated regularly;
    4. Consider where you might store the list – it should be in a safe place where your LPR can find it;
    5. Consider if the list is going to be digital or in paper form – if it is digital, how will your LPR gain access to it?; and
    6. There are applications available to assist you in managing your accounts and passwords, which means you would only need to provide your LPR with one master password to this application.
  2. Ensure your digital assets are provided for in your wills and powers of attorney
    1. Consider who is going to be responsible for administering your digital assets, is your LPR the appropriate person?
    2. You may choose to gift your digital assets to a specific person, or let the LPR decide.
    3. We recommend you consider this and ensure your will and enduring power of attorney have been drafted to deal with your digital assets in accordance with your wishes.

As we continue to become more and more dependent on technology, your digital assets will continue to grow.

Please get in contact with us if you need advice on how to manage your digital assets on your death or incapacity.