Digital assets vs normal assets
Before we get into the types of digital assets and what you can and cannot do with them through your will, let’s make sure we know what digital assets are. Simply put, every possession that’s not physical (i.e., not your car, house, phone, etc.) could be classified as a digital asset. These are things such as cryptocurrencies and NFTs, email and social network accounts, and video game content.
There is a very big caveat, however: not everything you might consider as a digital asset is something you can pass down through your will. There are various reasons for this; let’s delve a bit deeper into them.
Digital assets you can’t leave through your will
To pass down something through your will, you must possess the legal authority to do so – you must be its owner. In that sense, a picture you took is most definitely something that is considered a digital asset. However, the platform on which it’s hosted – for instance, Google Images – is not your property; neither is your account there.
That last bit is crucial as people often confuse the two and are left with the wrong impression as to what is theirs to do with as they please. Here are a couple of examples:
- A text you’ve published on your Facebook profile might be your digital property; however, your Facebook account is not.
- An attachment in an email you’ve sent (or the overall contents of the email) might be your property; your email account is not.
These are a few other examples of things people often incorrectly think of as their property:
- Online subscriptions, such as Spotify and Netflix
- Social media accounts
When you come to think of it, this makes absolute sense. While we might initially think of it as ‘our’ email account, is it really? Do we own the software or the hardware on which it lives? All online services have their own EULA (End-user Licence Agreement) and ToS (Terms of Service) that usually state explicitly that we’re paying them for a service and that paid usage cannot be transferred to another party as it’s not our property.
So while we can absolutely buy and sell such digital assets (as long as that is not in contravention of the terms of service), we can rarely, if ever, transfer them to another party via our will.
Digital assets you are allowed to leave through your will
The same general rule applies here – if you own it, you can pass it down. That means there are a lot of digital assets you can leave to your loved ones via your will. To name a few:
- Funds in an online service like Revolut, PayPal, Monese, etc.
- Cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin, Ethereum
- NFTs (Non-fungible Tokens)
- Funds in online stores – Amazon, eBay, etc.
The list above is of course non-exhaustive; the sheer amount of digital assets we can own today is staggering. In that sense, it’s always a good idea to research before listing a digital asset in your will.
What can we do about digital assets that we can’t pass down via our will?
Some websites and online services recommend you pass down the login/access information about such digital assets to your loved ones. While that might give them temporary access, in most cases this goes directly against the terms of usage of those services, making such actions illegal. You and your successors might get away with it, but given the purpose of your will in general is to give you peace of mind, do you want to leave such a huge potential gap in ensuring your digital legacy?
The smarter thing to do is to explore the options the service gives you. Nowadays, most if not all reputable online services have built-in mechanisms to allow relatives of a deceased person to gain access to their account and data. That includes Google, Verizon, Facebook, and Microsoft:
Exploring those options as soon as you can for the services that matter the most to you (i.e., the ones you’d like your successors to gain access to) is fundamental and can easily be a part of the effort you put into creating your will in the first place.
We’re here to help
As the industry’s leading asset management service with digital inheritance, DGLegacy is built to help precisely with such needs. Making sure you list relevant information about your digital assets so your loved ones can access them is paramount to ensuring your legacy is taken care of.
Head over to our registration page and create a free account. From then on, we’ll be your trusted advisor along the way!