Digital assets are now a part of our everyday lives, such as social media accounts, income-generating Instagram, blogs or YouTube accounts, online-only money accounts, or cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin.
It is estimated that there are around £25 billion of UK assets which are digital. While most of these are of sentimental value, such as photographs and social media accounts, there are digital assets that are, or have the potential to be, of significant value and provide an income stream for many years to come. Music, books, commercially valuable photographs and videos are more frequently published online rather than in a physical form such as CDS or paper books and can sell for many years after the creator has died. In addition to the issue of ownership of digital assets after death, there is also the issue of what the owner would wish to happen to his digital assets should he die – for example, closing down social media accounts or retaining a “legacy” page.
New research shows that 61 % of British adults do not have a Will. This equates to 30 million people.
Populus conducted the research in June this year with a sample of 2,078 adults. The new figures show a small increase from the 2016 research by Prudential which found that 59% of British adults did not have a Will.
Some of the reasons given during the recent research about why people have not made a Will include:
The research also found that there are regional differences when it comes to attitudes towards making a Will. People in England are more likely than those in Wales or Scotland to have made a Will. Those living in the South-West of England having the highest whilst London showed the lowest numbers of people who have made a Will.
Estate planning is an area of law that requires a lot of careful thought. There are many important matters to address when writing a Will, and a mistake could lead to a dispute arising at a later date. To help ensure your wishes are fully carried out and your estate is administered in the way you want after your death, here are six crucial things to consider when constructing your Will.
1 – Make sure you use an experienced Wills solicitor. Don’t be tempted by the cheap “DIY” Wills you see online or in bookshops – you could end up inadvertently disinheriting loved ones because of some ambiguous wording or causing unnecessary complications for your family after you’ve gone.
2 – Choose your Executors wisely. Often, parents will choose their adult children who have been estranged from each other or have had a turbulent relationship for many years. This is done in the hope that it will bring the siblings closer together as they deal with their parent’s estate. However, this is rarely the case and often causes a great many difficulties and additional expense and delays for the executors and beneficiaries. Make sure your chosen executors know what is expected of them and that they are willing to act as executor. It is better to choose two executors, rather than one, just in case anything incapacitates the sole executor.
In a recent High Court case, Rakesh Gupta claimed that his late mother’s Will, which favoured his younger brother, Naresh, was invalid due to lack of knowledge and approval. The Court found in favour of Naresh on the basis that, when considering the facts of the case, no suspicious activity had surrounded the creation or approval of the Will.
Their parents had handed over their successful business Rakesh in the 1990s, having purchased a house in which they lived with Naresh and his young family.
Their parents had ‘mirror’ Wills drawn up in 1998. Both Rakesh and Naresh were named as executors but the terms of the Wills favoured Naresh – the family home and a significant cash sum was left to him. Aside from small legacies left to their grandchildren, the rest of Mr and Mrs Gupta’s estate was to be equally divided between their two sons.
Having a Will means it will be simpler for your chosen executors to administer your estate after your death and in line with your specific wishes.
If you die without a will, your estate will be distributed in line with the Rules of Intestacy, rather than how you may have wished to have it distributed.
A well-drafted Will by a Wills solicitor can reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax (IHT) your estate may incur, for example by taking advantage of the nil-rate band transfer, charitable, agricultural or business property relief. Some professions are exempt from paying IHT, such as firefighters, members of the Armed Forces and Police officers; a specialist solicitor will be able to advise you on this and draft your Will accordingly.
If you have children and need to appoint a guardian, or if you want to leave specific items or pecuniary gifts to particular people, then a Will is especially important to make clear your wishes.