STEP pushes for simpler access to digital assets after death
The professional body for lawyers and other practitioners who work with families, STEP, has completed a project with Queen Mary University of London, highlighting the real problems people will face if accessing digital assets isn’t made more simple.
Social media, online bank accounts, photos and other digital assets are now becoming commonplace in estates, but that’s just for starters! We’ve written blogs about including cryptocurrency, air miles and even football season tickets in wills.
This just goes to show how much the world has changed and not all valuable assets are tangible these days. But have you ever given them any thought?
In another blog recently we wrote about some research from the Law Society, which stated just 26% of respondents knew what happened to any digital assets after their death. Only 7% said they had a full understanding and had made provision in their will - however, an overwhelming majority (93%) had not included any digital assets in their wills at all.
The thing is, companies that hold those digital assets also need to consider how they can give better access to families after their loved ones have passed away, yet still allow enough security that these assets don’t fall into the wrong hands.
As part of their project with Queen Mary University of London, STEP’s survey of 500 professional inheritance advisers found that nearly 60% have dealt with questions from clients about digital assets and 90% expect this to increase in future. Nearly a quarter of the respondents had clients who have experienced difficulties accessing digital assets of a family member, causing significant distress and frustration in many cases and 85% agreed that cloud providers should provide better solutions for managing access to digital assets stored in the cloud after death or incapacity.
As technology continues to progress, it is likely the problems of accessing anything online or in another digital format will increase.
We applaud STEP for calling on service providers and the government to engage on the issues and bring the legislation up to date to include both digital and traditional assets.
If you would like more information about including digital assets in your will, or you would like to nominate someone to look after these for you if you become unable to do so yourself, contact the Private Client team at Downs Solicitors to see how we can help.
The full STEP report can be read here: https://www.step.org/research-reports/digital-assets-call-action