Digital Inheritance – What do you have in Cyberspace?

Year Published: 2011

As a nation we are becoming more “connected” than ever before, with our work and personal lives increasingly lived through smart phones, tablets, social media and online accounts.

It is estimated there are £2.3 billion of internet hosted assets such as music, films, subscriptions and accounts currently stashed away online in this digital cloud by Britons, according to a recent survey performed by London University’s Centre for Creative and Social Technology.

So what happens to these accounts and assets on our death? When making a will we  usually consider our house, car and share portfolio but may not think about what will happen to our online treasures. The consequence of this is not just financial loss but that sentimental possessions, photographs, videos and documents may sadly be lost forever in cyberspace.

The survey suggested that although nearly a third of us consider our online possessions to form part of our estate and a quarter of us estimate our cyber wealth to be in excess of £200, only 10 percent of us have or are planning to included passwords to access these in our will. 

While executors may be permitted access to a deceased’s online accounts by some companies, if a person dies without a will many companies will refuse to grant access without a password, therefore denying the next of kin access to these assets.

The concept of passing down a digital inheritance is now a reality for most and is increasingly significant when you consider the rising value of our digital collections of music and films, together with the sentimental value of our online photographs and videos. It is clear that many of these digital riches are being lost – and becoming lost unnecessarily, as protecting access to them is relatively straightforward through relevant provision in a will.

Nobody wants to contemplate death, but with the digital revolution continuing to evolve quickly and the law struggling to keep up, it is time for many more people to seriously consider their digital inheritance as part of their will.

For more information about creating or amending a will, please contact Helen Kelly in our Private Client team on 01625 442 147.

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