Making a will: What happens to digital assets?

Whilst you may have thought about putting a will in place, with so much now held online, it is important to know what to do with your digital assets.

What are digital assets? 

“Digital assets” refers to information you access on a computer, mobile phone or tablet(typically through a third-party provider such as Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft or Amazon) who stores items like digital photos, music or videos. Other examples are emails, social media accounts, gaming, and online family ancestry databases (photos, videos or even DNA test results). Maintaining access to these is essential for either financial or sentimental reasons, and it’s increasingly important to detail for your executors alongside wishes made in your will.

What about banks and accounts accessed online? 

Generally, upon death, no-one would be able to access your bank account or other accounts online, and your executors would need to liaise with these companies via letter, email, or telephone. Without a paper trail, however, it may be harder for your executors to know what accounts you hold. It is important to never share PIN numbers or other information relating to a bank or other financial account, however, do make sure that you have all accounts listed for your executors.

How should I plan for my digital assets?

Make a list of logins and passwords for those accounts and keep it with your letter of wishes.
Remember to include:

  • Social media logins
  • PC or laptop logins
  • Music, photo, and video account details 
  • Crypto-currency keys and digital wallets

Aside from this personal information, if you run a business, consider a separate list for your business information to ensure business continuity. The following is guidance on how to plan for these assets. 

  • Review the terms and conditions of the account: There may be a specific process on how the account is dealt with after death. Often the control of something like music accessed online stays with the provider (e.g. Spotify or Apple Music) so actually you only have a licence to listen that comes to an end on death.

  • Review whether the providers will permanently destroy your digital assets after a period of inactivity. 

  • Can you appoint an account nominee to take over?: Facebook allows this through a legacy contact and Google via an Inactive Account Manager. Store loyalty points can also often be transferred.

  • Store this list securely as a hard copy and keep it up to date: Consider reviewing it every six months and using a solicitor to store this for you.

  • Tell your executors of the existence of the list and where it is stored: Do not give this information directly to them, or anyone else. 

Memorialising social network accounts

Some social media platforms allow your account to be memorialised. The account is frozen and only verified friends and family can see it and are also able to post comments in remembrance. Once memorialised, an account cannot be accessed or unlocked. You can give written instructions to your executors, for example, to leave a particular message for followers.

Create hard copies

This might be good for photos or other important documents - you can download them onto a USB stick or hard drive. Equally, this is important for music which you would like played at your funeral.

Do I need to include them in my will?

Possibly, some items are sentimental only and can be left to your executors to organise as part of distributing your personal possessions. In some cases, photos or videos may have a value which may need to be the subject of a separate gift in your will.

In an increasing digital age, spending time now to ensure these accounts can be accessed and retrieved as you wish is vital.



Katherine Carroll

Partner, Peacock & Co Solicitors

Katherine is head of Peacock & Co’s Private Client team. She specialises in wills, trusts, powers of attorney, estate administration and Court of Protection matters, adept at handling matters from the straightforward to complex, with a friendly and practical approach. She is a member of the Society of Trust & Estate Practitioners (STEP) and is also an Accredited Lifetime Lawyer of Lifetime Lawyers meaning that she is one of the most qualified lawyers in the country to support older and vulnerable clients. Clients have referred to Katherine as “efficient but managing the process with patience and sensitivity”, as “knowing the ins and outs in a thoroughly competent and timely manner”, “easy to deal with clarity and limited technical jargon used, and “prompt and diligent”.