The term “digital asset” can be hard to define, and is forever expanding. Some examples come in the form of email accounts (i.e. Yahoo Mail, Google Mail, and Microsoft Office accounts such as Hotmail or Outlook), social network accounts (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram accounts), entertainment accounts (i.e. Amazon/Kindle, E-Books, Netflix, Spotify, and gaming accounts), loyalty rewards accounts (i.e. Aeroplan, Air Miles Reward Program, and PC Optimum points), or cryptocurrency.
This list is not intended to be exhaustive, but rather to illustrate that you may have more digital assets than you think.
Importance of Considering Digital Assets in Estate Planning.
Digital assets may hold sentimental value.
If you have uploaded or memorialized your life on a platform, consider whether you want to gift, transfer, or provide access to your digital diaries, pictures, memories, and documents to others.
Digital assets may hold monetary value.
If you don’t address valuable digital assets in your estate planning, your estate might lose them.
Digital assets often contain personal information.
Dormant accounts can be exposed to hackers, identity thieves, and misuse.
Digital Assets and the Estate Planning Process.
Under British Columbia law, your executors have broad rights to deal with your assets, including your digital assets. However, most digital assets are managed by third party custodians, and are governed by contractual rights and terms of service agreements that are personal in nature and don’t pass to your executor, except where specifically stated (which is rare).
The terms and conditions may indicate that the digital asset is cancelled or void upon death, or that the executor must jump through hoops to access or manage your digital assets.
Addressing Digital Assets.
You should address your digital assets when planning your estate. Consider doing the following:
- periodically update an inventory list of all of your digital assets and the corresponding passwords;
- appoint, in your Will, a person to manage your digital assets, whether this is your executor or a specific person chosen for this sole purpose; and
- write out your (non-binding) instructions, as a separate private letter addressed to the appointed person indicating how you want your digital assets managed or distributed upon your death.