The rise of E-Estates - thinking ahead with your Digital Assets

Published: May 22, 2024

Unsurprisingly, over the past decade, there has been a significant rise in the use of Digital Assets. It is estimated that Digital Assets are worth in excess of £20 billion in the UK. As technology advances and our reliance on electronically held assets increases, it is important to consider your own Digital Assets and how best to ensure your digital estate planning is in order.

What are Digital Assets?

While there has been much discussion surrounding Digital Assets, there is currently no statutory definition. Examples include emails,
photos, social media accounts, online-only bank accounts (e.g. PayPal, Monzo etc.), cryptocurrency and music libraries. Similarly to other assets you own, Digital Assets can be passed to your chosen beneficiaries following your death. 

What are the issues in practice?

There is value in all Digital Assets – whether that be monetary or sentimental value. That said, it can be difficult for Executors to identify Digital Assets if there is no tangible evidence of them. It is therefore important to consider how to manage these assets to ensure continued access for your loved ones.

Often families struggle to access photos which are stored online, or to gain access to mobile phones and iPads where the images are stored. It can also be difficult to access social media accounts or music libraries following a death.

Third party access to any Digital Asset is not always guaranteed. Due to the current data protection laws, providers of Digital Assets have quite onerous requirements to allow access to such assets. The requirements also differ from one provider to another, with some even requiring a Court Order to allow access to such assets. This can be complex, time-consuming and costly. Therefore, it is more effective to put in place measures to manage this and hopefully make the process more streamlined for your chosen Executors.

How to manage Digital Assets

There are several ways to effectively manage your Digital Assets to ensure that access is given when required.

Firstly, you can create a Digital Asset Inventory. This involves compiling a list of all your Digital Assets. By collating this information, it provides a clearer picture of all your assets, which can be helpful to both yourself and any future Executor dealing with your estate.

Another option would be to consider a Legacy Platform. For an annual fee, these platforms enable you to organise and store information relating to both your Digital and physical assets. This simplifies the administration of your estate as all this information (and required access codes) is provided to your Executors or appointed person.

In any case, you can make provision in both your Power of Attorney and your Will for Attorneys and Executors to have access to your Digital Assets. Older Powers of Attorney and Wills are unlikely to contain sufficient powers in this regard, so please do let us know if we can assist with reviewing matters for you and recommending updates as necessary.

If you have any questions or would like to know more about how best to manage your Digital Assets, please contact our Private Client team who will be happy to assist.

Further reading: Do you have a Will? Find out why it’s important to put one in place and keep it updated here.
Further reading: Powers of Attorney – Find out why everyone should have one here.