Business digital assets

24 October 2016

In the past few years, there has been an increasing trend for businesses to operate the majority, if not all of its day-to-day running online. It is also not uncommon for individuals to run eBay shops, websites or blogs providing alternative revenue streams. Business digital assets may comprise of online accounts, online stores, mailing lists, subscription lists, business email addresses and client information which are under the control of a business.

In the past few years, there has been an increasing trend for businesses to operate the majority, if not all of their day-to-day running online. It is also not uncommon for individuals to run eBay shops, websites or blogs providing alternative revenue streams. Business digital assets may comprise of online accounts, online stores, mailing lists, subscription lists, business email addresses and client information which are under the control of a business.

However, digital assets do throw up some issues if you were to die or lack capacity to manage your own affairs.

  1. Knowing the asset exists.
    The first problem for both attorneys and executors is knowing that the digital asset exists in the first place. If you have online bank accounts, there are probably no paper statements. If you have other people in your business who assist with your banking or an accountant completes your tax returns, your attorneys or executors may be able to find details of the assets from them. But what if you are a sole trader with an eBay shop or PayPal account? Detective work may through up some, but not all of your digital assets. So the business or you personally, may hold digital assets which could be hard for attorneys or executors to trace.
  2. Having authority to access it with a Business Lasting Power of Attorney.
    If there is no business Lasting Power of Attorney in place, or an individual does not have a Power of Attorney, then there will be no authority to access digital assets. In the event of death, if there is no Will, there will be no executors who have authority to access the digital asset.
    In some circumstances, it will be necessary for the individual or business owner to leave further instructions for the attorneys or executors on how to access digital assets.
  3. Is the authority sufficient?
    If you do not have the relevant passwords you may still not be able to access the digital asset.

Email addresses and social media do not belong to the business or the individual. Unless stated otherwise in the terms and conditions, the individual or business only has a licence to use them. This means that even if you have properly appointed an attorney or executor, if they do not have the relevant passwords, they still may not be able to access the digital asset.

The best advice for business owners and individuals is to ensure you have a will and Lasting Power of Attorney in place, keep up to date records of all assets including digital ones, together with email addresses and usernames, and if stored in a separate location for security reasons, details of where these are located.


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