An individual traditionally defines their personal assets as their home, investments, bank accounts, vehicles, and/or personal items of sentimental value. However, digital assets are becoming a significant part of the average Canadian’s asset portfolio. Digital assets include social media webpages or websites, blogs, online profiles, Internet domain name registrations, electronic accounts including online photo albums and online music collections, electronic media rights and emails. Upon the death of a digital asset holder, it can be incredibly challenging for their executor to investigate and administer such digital assets.
If an individual is making a will and has an online presence, consideration should be given to their digital assets and online accounts in the event of their death. It is prudent for the will-maker to ensure their executor has all account information, passwords, etc. that they will need to close out the accounts or transfer the assets/accounts to the designated person under the will. The ability to transfer such assets/accounts will be subject to the terms of service entered into by the will-maker while they were alive. To ensure the administration goes smoothly, the will-maker should review the terms of service to ensure their testamentary instructions will hold up.
It is becoming quite common to address digital assets in your will. A will can provide the executor with full power and authority to manage, administer, sell, transact, delete, gift and otherwise give directions for all digital assets/property. Alternatively, a will may list specific instructions on certain accounts or digital assets while remaining within the terms of service of the provider.
If the will-maker has an active website or blog that they wish to be preserved and actively managed by the executor, special instructions should be provided in the will. This could include direction to continue generating revenue through the website/blog. They may also wish to provide specific power to the executor to transition the website/blog to an appropriate party whom they believe will continue servicing its visitors.
Addressing digital assets has become a necessary component of many estate plans and highlights the importance of working with qualified advisors with sufficient knowledge on new aspects of estate planning.
David Henderson is a partner at Agro Zaffiro LLP law firm with expertise in estates and business law.