Your ‘digital assets’ – what are they and what will happen to them when you die?


28 September 2017

By Lisa Carter

So much of our lives are tied up in social media nowadays, but the idea of leaving a ‘digital legacy’ on Facebook or Twitter is hardly ever discussed.

What is a digital asset?

A digital asset, in simple terms, is content owned by an individual that is stored in digital form. Although digital assets belong to somebody, they have no physical presence.

A few common examples of digital assets are (but not limited to):

Accounts – Email accounts, social media accounts, shopping accounts; and all of their content.

Money – Online banking, PayPal account, Lotto account, gambling accounts.

Knowledge – Knowledge recorded in formats such as e-documents, e-books, websites and media.

Software – The programs and other operating information used by a computer.

Data – Information in databases such as Excel spreadsheets and any other unstructured formats.

Designs – such as architectural plans or visual designs stored in a digital format.

Art – Visual works of artistic value such as photography and digitised paintings.

Music – Digital music such as that stored on iTunes.

Entertainment & Media – Entertainment such as movies and media such as any photographs and videos held in an online storage service such as iCloud.

Addresses – An electronic address such as a domain name of a website.

Virtual Property – Locations, items and characters in virtual worlds.

Digital Currency – Electronic currency such as a bitcoin.

What will happen to these assets when you die?

If you die without leaving details and access to your online accounts and any other data, the Executors of your Will may find it difficult to deal with all the parts of your digital life from when you were alive.

With technological advances taking place all the time, more and more people are using technology not just for pleasure but to help them with everyday life, for example, online banking and food shopping.

A common example may be a PayPal account. An account may have funds in it from selling items on eBay, friends sending them money etc. but it is unlikely that this would be considered when distributing assets in an Estate.

In addition to a monetary value some digital assets will have sentimental value, such as photographs and videos. These items may be lost forever if no one is aware of their existence.

There is currently no legislation covering the inheritance of digital assets and accounts and individuals don’t usually consider them specifically when making their Will or when dealing with a deceased’s Estate. If, for example, an individual wants their digital photos to pass to a specific person this could be mentioned in their Will or in a Letter of Wishes that sits alongside the Will.

Care does need to be taken when trying to assign a digital account as the individual may not actually own the content. Many online game accounts or music streaming accounts are licensed rather than owned and it may be against the Terms and Conditions to assign or transfer an account.

In order to ensure that digital assets are accounted for many people keep a schedule of their accounts and even passwords but keeping such a schedule does bring its own security concerns and may even break the Terms and Conditions of the account. Increasingly, more people are using password manager sites to store and manage passwords and this may be a good option for the security conscious.

If you would like to speak to someone about your Will and the inclusion of digital assets please feel free to call us on 01245 228127 or email us on

You can also find more information on our website