I leave devise and bequeath my Facebook profile to…..

will-testament

As solicitors, we encourage our clients to think carefully about how their estate will be managed and distributed on their death. Often it’s important to an individual to make specific provision for not only items of monetary value but also those of emotional or sentimental worth.

The Law society of Northern Ireland recently updated the “personal assets log” that it publishes for members and their clients’ use and it now includes a section relating to digital assets. This could include your online accounts, profiles, photographs or music for example.  Some digital assets such as an online shopping account or digital artwork can have significant monetary value and some, such as a facebook profile or Flickr, can contain intimate personal information.

Gary Rycroft, chair of the Law Society of England and Wales’ digital-assets working group says “You have the legal right to pass on digital assets with financial value to your chosen beneficiaries. You also have the legal right to manage the deactivation, memorialisation or removal of your digital social life, but you need to take steps to exercise your rights by making a will” [1]

Not all digital property can be passed on. It is necessary to look at the terms and conditions of any online account to find out whether they state that the service is personal to the account holder only and so cannot be passed on.  It’s also important to consider what you actually own. Some online property is comprised only of a licence to use the item (such as a song or book) and such a licence cannot be passed on.  You have purchased only the right for you as an individual to access and view the item for your lifetime, and not the ownership of the item itself.  This knowledge may encourage you to buy a print copy of your favourite book or buy that album on vinyl!

The disposition of digital assets on death is a new area of law and at present there has not been much in the way of court cases to show us how issues surrounding such legacies will play out but you can take steps now to think about what you own, what you value, and who you would like to receive it when you die.   If you would like to make a will, obtain advice to ensure that your assets are administered in accordance with your wishes, obtain a personal asset log, or to discuss the administration of an estate then please contact us on 02890 329801 / legal@mtb-law.co.uk

[1] www.lawsociety.org.uk/news/press-releases/what-happens-to-your-digital-assets-after-your-death