How valuable is your virtual life?

centrelink government benefits advice

We all know that having a Will to protect our life’s assets is crucial, but what about our virtual life? Is our online presence classed as an asset? It most definitely can be!

Known as “digital assets”, what you store online can take many forms, and often have no expiry date. So, what happens to your digital property when you die?

There actually is a thing called “digital estate planning”. Just like a Will, a digital estate plan can help your family to find, access, value, and appropriately distribute or take care of your virtual assets after your death. In many cases, it can form part of your Will.

What are digital assets?

Digital assets can include any data, internet accounts or rights you may have in the digital world. Data may be stored on your computer hard drive, on removable media, or more often it is stored remotely “in the cloud” so you can access it online.

Digital assets can include personal and business data, intellectual property rights, or online accounts, and be held in:

  • Cloud storage facilities,
  • Online accounting services,
  • Email accounts,
  • Social networks,
  • Blogs,
  • Videos,
  • Photos,
  • Web domains and hosted websites,
  • Shopping and business accounts.

Intellectual property rights to photos, music, movies, literary works, websites, computer code, or any creative works you have produced and stored, can also be classed as digital assets.

Understandably, your loved ones may not be aware of all of your virtual assets. Even if they know of their existence, digital property is often password-protected, and many companies have privacy regulations restricting them from allowing access to accounts to anyone but the owner without a legal battle.

Why do I need a plan for my digital assets?

Creating a digital estate plan (or including it in your Will) can provide numerous benefits.

  • Photos, videos, literary works, songs, and other memorabilia that may be of value to your loved ones can be accessed and distributed as per your wishes, including any future royalties associated with your creations.
  • If you are the owner of a domain and website, recording your access codes will ensure the domain name does not expire, and the website can be updated after your death.
  • Social networking sites and email accounts can be accessed and closed as per each provider’s terms. Your entire circle of friends can also be easily contacted by your family to notify your passing.
  • If you own an online business, providing access details to a trusted person will ensure it continues to operate until your full Will is executed.
  • If your family is aware of your virtual assets, but cannot access them, a digital estate plan can eliminate the need for excessive probate and potential litigation.

How do I start?

If this has made you realise how valuable your virtual life is, sit down and make a list of your digital assets, including where they’re held and how they can be accessed. It’s important to store usernames and passwords in separate places to minimise the risk of theft.

Then choose someone you trust with this confidential information, and who is up to the task of following your instructions.

Don’t leave it another moment…