Dealing with Social Media Estates and Digital Assets

by | Feb 7, 2024 | Blog, probate, Wills

Digital assets

Dealing with a deceased person’s estate involves gathering in their assets and distributing them in accordance with their will. If there is no will the ‘rules of intestacy’ apply.

Finding out what assets a person had used to be a fairly simple task. The process involved looking at bank statements, pension policies and share certificates. Nowadays there are factors such as online income and accounts with no ‘paper trail’. So what happens to these so-called ‘digital assets’?

How Do You Find Out What Online Assets The Deceased Person Has?

This can be tricky. A starting point would be to look at the deceased person’s bank accounts and statements. It is wise to get historic statements for at least a year.

Current account statements are useful. They show transfers to or from other accounts, pension payments, share dividends and insurance policy premiums. You can then contact the relevant companies to ask for details of any assets or accounts. There are companies that can check for unclaimed assets – however these won’t cover everything.

| How Can You Make Life Easier For Whoever Has To Deal With Your Estate?

I would recommend keeping an up to date list of your assets / accounts and passwords so that whoever is dealing with your estate can access the list. Make sure you keep this information secure especially your passwords.

Social media accounts are usually private and not to be shared, making it difficult for loved ones to access accounts after your death. Some providers have put processes in place so that you can decide how your loved ones can access your accounts after your death.

STEP has set out the processes for some of the main providers on their website. Just follow the tips and update your settings.

And more than anything, talk to your loved ones about it. Explain what you’d like to happen to your digital assets, and how your family and friends will be able to access them.

| Make A Will With A Specialist Solicitor

A safe and sensible place to keep information about your estate is with your will. If your solicitor is storing your will you can rely on their duty of client confidentiality. When you are alive, nobody else has the right to access your will but you. When you die, the executors in your will deal with your estate.

| What If I Earn Money Online?

More and more people are now earning online income. One example of this is YouTube advertising. In the case of YouTube content, the videos are the actual assets. However, the real value of the videos is likely to be in the accumulated ‘following’ and the advertising revenue associated with it.

After a person dies, their YouTube account is closed. The beneficiaries can upload the videos themselves but at this stage the original following and advertising revenue will have been lost. Loss of revenue can be avoided by making the videos the property of a company so they can be continued after the person’s death.

| Things To Consider

Online assets and income streams are creating new challenges for people dealing with estates. This inevitably creates even more potential pitfalls. If you’re dealing with an estate and you get it wrong, you could find yourself being personally liable to beneficiaries or creditors. Getting professional advice will reduce risks considerably. You’re entitled to do so and the costs should come from the estate.

It is important that people talk to their solicitor about making a will and planning for their own estate so that they can ensure their estate is dealt with correctly and that their assets pass to their intended beneficiaries.

| Proposed Reform

To take into account the changing landscape, the Law Commission opened a consultation and reported on it last year. Their recommendations include updating statute to cover digital assets in the definition of “property”, allowing your digital assets to be protected in your will.

| Online Appointments

Call us on 0800 988 7756 if you would like to discuss your will and any potential digital assets. Alternatively, make an appointment on our online booking form.

We offer evening and weekend appointments and can meet you in person or over a video call.

 

Recently Added

Probate court fees to rise in May

Probate court fees to rise in May

Following a consultation last year, the Government is increasing the probate court fee by 10%. | Probate court fees A court fee is usually payable when applying for probate. There is no fee if the estate is valued at £5,000 or less. If it is over £5,000, the...

What our clients say