There is no disputing the fact that we now live in a digital and technological world. Here’s what you need to know about estate planning in a digital world.
Personal diaries have been replaced by blogs and social media accounts, books replaced by kindles, bank cards replaced by digital wallets and you can now do most of your shopping from the comfort of your own home. There is no escape from the advancement of technology and as time goes on, more and more of our possessions will be digitised.
The question now is: what happens to these digital assets when you die and how can they be transferred to another person?
What Are Digital Assets?
In simple terms, a digital asset is anything that is stored digitally. Digital assets may include emails, photographs, blogs, websites, electronic documents, cryptocurrency, and content uploaded to social media accounts. Some digital assets may only have sentimental value, whereas others may have significant monetary value. In some circumstances, it may not even be a digital asset at all but rather a licence to use a service.
What Happens to These Digital Assets on Your Death?
At present, access to a person’s digital assets is largely determined by contract and user agreements. For example, some social media platforms will deactivate an account after no access for a certain period. Others may provide the option for an account to be memorialised.
There are currently no laws in Australia that expressly outline what happens to a person’s digital assets on their death. Ultimately, this is entirely dependent on the provider concerned and the user agreement in place which often sets out what is to happen to the digital asset after death.
It is important to note that some digital assets such as cryptocurrency do require prior planning on behalf of the deceased for access to those assets to be granted after death. Cryptocurrencies often rely on access keys or passwords to access the wallet and trading platform, with no alternative access methods generally being available.
How Can I Ensure My Digital Assets Are Transferred to My Loved Ones After My Death?
There are several issues that need to be considered when providing instructions in relation to your digital assets. We recommend that your digital assets be considered as part of your overall estate plan.
To assist your executor and loved ones, you should make a list of your digital assets and consider what you would like to happen with those assets after your death. It is critical for your executor to be able to easily identify and access your digital assets. You may even wish to consider maintaining a register (hard copy or digital) of your digital profile, the services used, and your usernames and passwords used to access such accounts.
Now more than ever, people need to be aware of their available options when considering their estate planning. This certainly now also extends to options regarding digital assets.