Digital Assets and the Will Execution Process

by donalm on May 8, 2012

If somebody passes what happens to their digital assets when Scottish legal firms help to execute a will? Huge numbers of people are now using the Internet, and other digital sources, and therefore in turn could no doubt own online based assets and information. This information could include digitally stored financial assets and /or liabilities. When executing a will is it not the responsibility of the executors to ensure that all assets and /or liabilities owned by the deceased are identified and recorded? So what happens if the deceased had a betting account with a thousand pounds credit in it or owned a boat that had outstanding payments due against it and in both cases they were conducting all the business in relation to these two examples online with no paper trails? Are Scottish law firms just ignorng this area?




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  • YouBlawg

    Good questions Mike. I’ve found this article on the Journal Online useful for some of the issues

    Any other comments from readers or from yourself welcome on this subject.

  • donalm

    Thanks for the link. Very interesting and in line with numerous other sources when relating this topic to personal information. Identity fraud is one area that after death needs to be considered and there are ways in which that risk can be reduced, e.g. by closing down people’s digital lifes as much as possible and by basic investigations into the scale of the deceased persons usage of digital information. However it is my second point about the use of digital media to manage people’s financial affairs that nobody appears to be able to respond to in any detail.

    My understanding is that in Scotland when an estate is wound up the nominated representative(s) carry out instructions in a will or if there is no will they follow the rules of intestacy. They will then pay taxes due or apply for tax refunds, clear bills and debts, claim on life insurance policies, list all the assets and transfer them to the heirs and beneficiaries.

    My point about digital assets is what is being currently done to identify those or is the whole area of digital interaction by the deceased just being ignored when executing a will? Are there currently no formal processes to follow? Are there no basic questions being asked during the winding up period? By doing nothing an estate could lose out in terms of substantial assets, by not paying enough taxes due, by not clearing debt and in some cases not identifying capital items. Paperless billing, being technology savvy and managing your affairs online is not uncommon in this day and age.

    In fact some people may even have stored on their computer software based family tree that helps the legal representatives involved to identify other relatives who should be contacted in relation to the winding up of the deceased person’s estate. That in itself raises interesting questions.

    So in summary is there currently the possibility of legal representatives not undertaking all the necessary due diligence when winding up an estate due to them ignoring the digital life’s of the deaceased?

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