Should I include digital assets in my will?

You are likely to have considered what you would like to happen to your property and physical possessions after your death, however you may have given less thought to your digital assets.
More of our lives are stored online now than ever before, from social media accounts holding years and years of memories, to financial information tied up in online banking.
Accessing these accounts from numerous devices anywhere in the world certainly offers a new level of convenience, but also comes with a unique set of complications when it comes to wills and estate planning. 
One issue involves the security and privacy measures put in place by the platforms themselves. While these are integral to ensure your data is safeguarded online, without proper planning then these same protections could block loved ones from accessing important information after your death. 
Additionally, more and more people are choosing to go paperless when it comes to bills and accounts, which can make it difficult for an executor to know if all assets have been accounted for.
While printing less documents and statements may be better for the environment, the lack of a paper trail can result in those close to you needing to spend considerable time contacting the companies involved, with no guarantee they will be able to help. 
Another thing to consider are your online accounts which family and friends may want to access for sentimental value, such as social media or music streaming sites. 
Some platforms, such as Facebook, Apple, Google and LinkedIn, allow users to set up legacy tools. Google, for example, allows you to allocate an inactive account manager, who can gain access after a period of inactivity predetermined by the account holder. Taking advantage of these measures can provide peace of mind, knowing that family members will be able to access photographs and important files stored on a Google Drive or have the option to memorialise a Facebook account. 
However, it is also important to consider how much access you would like to give your loved ones as you may have some files stored in the digital sphere that you would prefer to keep private or have destroyed upon your death.
Outlining this clearly as part of the estate planning process can minimise further distress during what is already a very difficult time for those close to you.
Accounting for digital assets in your will can be complicated and it is worth noting that not all digital assets can be gifted. It is therefore important to discuss your options with a solicitor so they can talk you through the process in depth.
This will ensure that you have peace of mind that your digital assets are properly dealt with after your death. 

Lydia McCaslin

Partner and head of wills, probate and trusts at Mincoffs Solicitors. Lydia advises on all aspects of succession planning, including the preparation of wills, trusts and inheritance tax planning, as well as the administration of estates. She also deals with matters of capacity, supporting clients with the preparation of Lasting Powers of Attorney and handling applications to the Court of Protection. 

Passionate about issues facing elderly clients, Lydia was one of the first accredited Lifetime Lawyers and is also a full member of STEP.
Mincoffs Solicitors is a leading corporate law firm in Newcastle upon Tyne, providing expert legal advice to businesses throughout the North East region and nationally.