Con­sider your dig­i­tal life when do­ing fi­nan­cial plan­ning for your death

Inner City Gazette - - News -

While the vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple are aware of the im­por­tance of mak­ing sure that their phys­i­cal as­sets and per­sonal wealth are passed on to those left be­hind when they pass away, it’s be­com­ing in­creas­ingly im­por­tant to en­sure that the grow­ing num­ber of dig­i­tal as­sets are also specif­i­cally in­cluded in our es­tate plan­ning.

That’s ac­cord­ing to Jo­han Stry­dom of FNB Fidu­ciary Ser­vices who ex­plains that the term ‘dig­i­tal as­sets’ is a very broad one that can cover ev­ery­thing from knowl­edge recorded dig­i­tally in eBooks, doc­u­ments web­sites and so­cial me­dia, to soft­ware, apps and code we may have de­vel­oped, im­por­tant dig­i­tal data, patents or trade se­crets, dig­i­tal art­work or record­ings, and of course cryp­tocur­rency in­vest­ments.

“There is a great deal that peo­ple own to­day that can­not be clas­si­fied as a phys­i­cal as­set that we can hold or touch, but which still has im­mense fi­nan­cial value,” Stry­dom ex­plains, “but be­cause of the dig­i­tal for­mat of these as­sets, there is a very real risk that they may be ac­ci­den­tally over­looked when we are do­ing our es­tate plan­ning or draw­ing up a will.”

And Stry­dom points out that the im­por­tance of con­sid­er­ing such dig­i­tal as­sets in es­tate plan­ning has in­creased when one con­sid­ers that the value of these as­sets of­ten also goes far be­yond the fi­nan­cial ben­e­fit they may of­fer the loved ones we leave be­hind.

“While as­sets like cryp­tocur­rency, dig­i­tal con­tracts, art and mu­sic pro­duc­tions, code and patents can un­doubt­edly have huge fi­nan­cial value, for most peo­ple the im­por­tance of what they have stored dig­i­tally goes far be­yond mon­e­tary con­sid­er­a­tion,” he ex­plains, “but given that few peo­ple could ever put a price on things like fam­ily pho­tos and videos the im­por­tance of con­sid­er­ing how best to se­curely pass all our dig­i­tal as­sets to our ben­e­fi­cia­ries can’t be over­stated.”

Stry­dom’s ad­vice makes good sense, when you con­sider that even if many peo­ple don’t own ac­tual dig­i­tal as­sets with a fi­nan­cial value, the ma­jor­ity of us live sig­nif­i­cant dig­i­tal lives that in­clude so­cial me­dia ac­counts, on­line bank­ing and shop­ping pro­files, email ser­vices, and more.

Most of these are pass­word pro­tected. which makes ac­cess­ing or clos­ing them near im­pos­si­ble for those left be­hind in the event of our death.

“The is­sue is not just an in­abil­ity by our heirs to ac­cess the many dig­i­tal ac- cal bank ac­counts and tra­di­tional in­vest­ments, which are frozen af­ter the owner ’s death un­til dealt with by an ex­ecu­tor, dig­i­tal as­sets and in­vest­ments re­main ac­tive and can be ac­cessed by any­one who has the nec­es­sary lo­gin de­tails.

What’s more, many in­ter­na­tional dig­i­tal ser­vice providers like iCloud, Ya­hoo, and iS­tore don’t make al­lowance for trans­fer­abil­ity of dig­i­tal as­sets to ben­e­fi­cia­ries, which fur­ther com­pli­cates mat­ters.

And un­der South African law, there is still no clearly de­fined process for deal­ing with dig­i­tal as­sets.

All of which means that it’s likely any cryp­tocur­rency or other dig­i­tal as­sets you own will need to form part of your over­all es­tate and be dealt with by your nom­i­nated ex­ecu­tor, who will need to be able to ac­cess those dig­i­tal as­sets in or­der to in­clude them in the es­tate wind­ing up pro­ce­dures.

“It is ob­vi­ously not ad­vis­able to in­clude lo­gin de­tails for any ac­counts that hold fi­nan­cial as­sets in your will as this could be ac­cessed by an unau­tho­rised in­di­vid­ual, even while you are still alive,” he ex­plains, “so the best ap­proach is still to part­ner with a trusted es­tate plan­ner or other fidu­ciary ex­pert and en­able them to make sure your loved ones ben­e­fit from these as­sets be­ing in­cluded as part of the over­all es­tate they in­herit when you die.”

While it’s easy enough to stip­u­late in your will who gets which of your dig­i­tal as­sets af­ter you die, the se­cu­rity pre­cau­tions in place to pro­tect these as­sets have the po­ten­tial to make it dif­fi­cult, if not im­pos­si­ble, for your ben­e­fi­cia­ries to ac­cess...

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