Death is a certain inevitability. And yes, I know that is tautology but, instead, think of it as ‘emphasis’. After living, we leave… or the world ends. Either way, no one is going to be around forever. The topic of Wills and Final Testaments sits one or two ways with people. For some (especially we Africans), the act of writing a will is seen as an invitation to sudden death via sudden accident, food poisoning, cardiac arrest and so on and so forth. For others, the topic of writing a Will is regarded in a nonchalant manner especially if said regarder is young and has no property to boast of.
But Wills are important and might be the difference between the well being of one’s dependents and their hustle, especially if the deceased was a caretaker. Even if the deceased was taking care of no one before he/she died, a property bequeathed to a person by a dead person can be a communication of love, or pass a much needed message.
There is a point to be made in encouraging young people to write their Will. First, it helps you create an awareness of the necessity to make arrangements for everything you’re working for / things that matter to you and how they’ll go to people who matter to you, in the event that you (inevitably) die. Secondly (and I may be wrong), but there’s something about being able to see your assets and liabilities at a glance. Maybe it propels you to work smarter, maybe it guides you on what to do, but it definitely helps for some needful reflection.
Generally, if you’re 18 years and above, you can make a Will. It doesn’t matter that you’re blind or deaf or disabled. Just have a sound mind and be an adult according to law.
There are modalities which the concept of Will-making is encumbered with (and I say ‘encumbered’ in an exaggerated way as it’s not such a difficult thing to make. It’s like Noodles; get the principles right and it’s a thumbs-up!)
Anyway, this article is not really about all of that but about the contemplation of Digital Assets as property to be bequeathed in a Will.
What is an Asset?
An asset is any valuable thing belonging to a person. It can be tangible or intangible. Tangible assets are things such as buildings, machinery, lands, vehicles, laptops and so on. While intangible assets are non-physical; like copyright, goodwill, brand recognition and so on.
What are Digital Assets?
Simply put, a digital asset is any digital file, digital content, digital account, digital license which you own/have the right to use.
I’ll give examples to help you paint a good picture:
Bitcoin, Your social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter), Your OkadaBooks Account (maybe funded, maybe stocked with books), Your Kindle Library, Your Apple Music Account, Travel Miles, Your email account, your emails, domain names, logos, presentations, spreadsheets, Internet subscription, your gaming accounts, and so on.
However, whether or not AND how these can be passed down to another in your Will is subjective to both national laws on Wills and platform-specific rules.
For Instance, Facebook has options for what will happen to your account in the event of your death. It provides that you may either choose to appoint a legacy contact to look after your memorialized account or have your account permanently deleted from Facebook.
Google also has an option for an inactive account manager.
Furthermore, the laws regarding the transferability of these assets are not very clear in many parts of the world including Nigeria.
However, here’s my 2 Kobo on what you can do with your digital assets
- Make a list of all the Digital Assets you believe you have. Don’t laugh at yourself or think they are ridiculous. Just do it.
- Do a research on each one to see if the digital platforms which support them already make provisions for transfer upon death (re: Google, Facebook…)
- If satisfied with these provisions, then you should follow their instructions and reflect your wishes, both on the platform and on paper, in your Will.
- If not satisfied with what they have provided, then use a password manager or a digital asset manager to manage the accounts and/or the assets so that you can just pass that down by giving instruction to your executor to give access to whoever you want.
That’s my opinion on the matter. But while we’re at it, I really look forward (and would honestly love to contribute) to the development of the Nigerian laws of estates administration vis-à-vis Digital Assets.
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