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It's all in the clouds

Angela Evans

For those of you that have already considered the assets you hold and what should happen to them in the event of your death (or losing mental capacity), the obvious ones such as property, physical assets (cars etc.), personal items are easy.

Bank accounts, insurance policies and pensions require a little more thinking about and work to ensure that there is a record so that your family/executor knows that they exist and where to find the paperwork.

But what about your online assets both in financial and sentimental value? The more we move to a digital environment and way of life, the more we accumulate without a "paper" trail to guide others to them and they may be lost forever. 

What are my Digital Assets?
Some might consider this a generational issue and not relevant just yet. However, most of us now own smartphones, and use them to take photographs. We buy music, ebooks, films. We have a social media presence of varying degrees. Letters are no longer sent to family because if we send an email we can attach photographs, videos and vlogs that are much more fun and personal, aren't they? Do you print your photos and put them in albums or are they sitting on a hard drive, a flash drive in a drawer, or in your cloud account somewhere? These are all digital assets that have a sentimental value. Just as precious as the ones we can see and touch.
Then there are those that do actually have a financial value. The more regularly we shop online we leave a trail of personal information, credit cards, addresses and relationships. This activity may include the creation of online bank accounts such as PayPal. Other activities, particularly online gaming, may accumulate cryptocurrencies that can also have significant value. How do you protect these, how do you ensure that they can be accessed when you are not able to?
If you are not accessing your accounts regularly, you are no longer monitoring their use and the risk of identity theft increases substantially. In some cases if an account is not used for a set amount of time it is closed by the provider and any funds or value is lost. Your online music account may be a licence to use and that vast library you have bought and accumulated over the years may be lost, subject to the terms and conditions of that account.
In addition to this, many online accounts are not in the UK and are subject to the rules in overseas jurisdictions. For example PayPal UK is actually held in Luxembourg and has very specific rules as to the information that is required to access the account in the event of death of the account holder.
What can I or should I do?
1.    Make a full inventory of all your assets including all your digital assets
2.    Make a note on the inventory of what these assets are and where to find them.
3.    Appoint a representative that you can trust with this information should you die or become mentally        incapacitated.
4.    Tell them what you want to do and achieve.
5.    Make sure they know how to access your accounts and passwords
6.    Consider any information contained in emails or social media that you may not want people to see.
7.    Make sure that the appointment of your representative meets the criteria for different jurisdictions.
8.    Consider making a will and setting up a power of attorney to back up the appointment
9.    Once the inventory is complete and everything in place ensure that you keep it up to date for changes over time.
For further information please contact Angela Evans

01983 824810