What are the executor’s responsibilities for digital assets?
An executor or other personal representative is responsible for administering the whole estate of the person they are representing. This includes any digital assets.
When an executor assesses the extent and value of an estate, they will need to take the digital assets into account. In many cases, this will be a case of determining if any of the digital files will be of any interest to family or friends, deleting any that aren’t and closing online accounts as necessary.
In other cases, executors will need to value digital assets and distribute them among beneficiaries.
If the person who has died had business-related digital assets such as online storefronts, monetised social media accounts or digital art files, this may be a big responsibility. The executor may need to consult experts on how to value and sell these digital assets.
Right to access digital assets and accounts
Legally speaking, anything that a person owns becomes part of their estate when they die. This includes digital assets. Personal representatives should be able to access digital assets in order to access and distribute them among beneficiaries.
However, this is not always straightforward in practice. If the person who has died has not left instructions on how to log in or to access digital assets, their personal representatives will have to follow the policies of each company with whom the person who has died had an account. These policies will not necessarily make it possible for loved ones to access accounts, which can mean that digital assets of sentimental value such as emails, photographs and written text might be lost.
Planning in advance for these eventualities can avoid this. When you make a Will, you can choose to include instructions on how to access your digital accounts after your death.
Some digital accounts also allow you to add a ‘legacy contact’ or ‘inactive account manager’ who would be authorised to manage your account should you no longer be able to.