Digital Assets

Why should I plan for my digital asset management? 

Digital assets are now becoming an important feature of modern life and extend well beyond your photo collection and Facebook presence.

For a start, there are your ‘hard assets’ such as your computers, tablets, smartphones, e-readers, smart watches, smart TV’s etc. Some of these will be linked to your business interests while other will be for personal use. Items that are of personal use can be easily given to those you choose however more often than not these items fall into the category of residue and are divided between the beneficiaries. For items that are linked to business interests different considerations will apply.

Where these internet enabled devices are connected to the internet and onto various websites is where some of your ‘soft assets’ are located. These assets can include social media accounts, cloud accounts for files, music and photos, passwords and bank accounts. Some of these soft assets may not have quantifiable value such as social media accounts, but if lost, hacked or stolen could result in significant losses.

Commonly business owners will have several mobile phones, laptops and I-pads to conduct their business from. Business will send and received invoices, conduct online banking transaction, pay creditors, manage clients and others and do cloud based accounting from their linked devices. With the ever present threat of hacking it is understandable that business operators are unwilling to share  passwords to access the devices and services. However, in the event you loose capacity or die, your Executors or Attorneys could have an extremely difficult time in attempting the manage your business without access to those important password protected websites. There is a real risk that they may not be able to pay bills on time with the consequent insolvency of the business.

Your estate plan should set out all those online details and it is critical that your Attorneys and Executors know where to access your estate plan.

We are more and more moving toward cloud based services and it is important to read the Terms of Service. Moreover it is important to understand what your rights in respect to ownership of content and management of the account.  What happens to these accounts when you die or lose capacity? Do the Terms of Service set out clearly what happens to the account and who can access it. Be aware that there are a number of social media sites and other content provider sites that do not set out these details in their Terms Of Service . Where these sites are located off-shore they are not bound by Australian law and it can be difficult to impossible to get them to even recognize Australian Court Orders or deal with your Executors and Attorneys without Orders of the foreign jurisdiction.

The key reasons for including digital asset management in your estate planning are to:

  • Minimise potential identity theft or account manipulation issues
  • Enable the continued management of your business if needed
  • Bring together and document your various soft assets
  • Protect your social media presence
  • Ensure various accounts can be easily terminated, transferred or dealt with otherwise.
  • Avoid unnecessary and protracted correspondence relating to un-closed accounts.


What are my digital or soft assets?

Digital, or soft assets can include social media, online accounts, financial details, passwords, PIN numbers such as:

  • PIN/Access numbers for bank cards, phones, computers and other devices
  • Email accounts
  • Online banking, investment and shareholding accounts
  • E-commerce – PayPal, Ebay, Gumtree, Alibaba and others
  • Other vendor accounts that are linked to a bank account or card eg. online gaming accounts, mobile app stores
  • Social media accounts – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest
  • Online media and data sharing – Microsoft OneDrive, Google Docs, Slideshare, Evernote, Dropbox, Flickr
  • Media created or purchased by you – eg videos on YouTube, photos and music in Itunes, video streaming accounts such as Netflix or similar
  • Business assets – ASIC corporate keys, online superannuation accounts,
  • Online or cloud based software, such as Microsoft Office, bookkeeping and accounting software, 3D software, Adobe and other professional software.
  • Rewards and loyalty accounts – FlyBuys, Everyday Rewards, Visa rewards.

How should I manage my digital assets

You will need to make a list of what digital assets and devices you have and where they can be found.

For each device or account list the full details of usernames, passwords, codes, and security questions and answers.

This information should be printed and  the document saved to a USB stick, CD or other portable media. The information should be deleted from your computer and the printed document and USB stick stored somewhere safe and secure with those details provided to a trusted person.

You may wish to provide the USB and printed document to your Solicitor who will keep it in safe custody along with your Will and any further instructions you wish to leave. The Estate solicitor can also make a provision in a Power of Attorney document to assist the Attorney in accessing the document when needed.

Unfortunately with the ongoing internet security issues you will need to regularly review and update  the USB stick and document and provide the latest version to your trusted person.


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