In the past, this wasn’t much of an issue, if you owned records or CD’s, you could leave them to family or friends, named in your will, along with your other belongings.
Nowadays, many of us download our music (along with films and books), but this means that we don’t actually own these items, and they are not assets at all, but just licences to use a product that is owned by someone else. When we die, that licence dies with us.
Music of this sort is often referred to as a ‘digital asset’ and over the last few years, as our lives become more digital e.g. online bank accounts, eBay accounts, social networking sites, domain names, email accounts, cloud storage and Pokemon Go (to name a few), lawyers have had to think about what assets we actually own, whether we can deal with these assets under a will and if so, how it should be done.
In June 2016, STEP (the Society for Trust and Estate Practitioners) published some guidance for professionals and the public about digital assets.
To plan for your digital legacy, they suggest that you should:
- Make a list of your digital assets.
- Appoint someone you trust to deal with them – e.g. someone who is sufficiently knowledgeable to deal with online accounts.
- Make sure they know what you want to happen to them e.g. closing social media sites.
- Make sure they know how to access assets e.g. with the relevant passwords.
- Providers will have varying requirements (and are often based abroad), so make sure that the person you appoint has the requisite power to do whatever needs to be done.