For a very long time, I have been wondering about the increasing use of digital media in our lives. Almost anything that we can think of has some form of digital interaction.

Just think for a moment what you are currently busy doing on your phone. Many people are doing almost all electronic interactions on their cell phones. Maybe it is easier to ask what they are not doing on their cell phones. I am a bit more conservative in this regard since I do not want my hundreds of work email messages coming to my phone. I want to choose when I want to or can answer these emails.

The demand to answer all questions instantly at any time of night and day brings with it an enormous amount of stress to the individuals not even touching on the possible addictions that might be experienced if not managed well.

Let us talk a bit about what is considered digital assets.

Computer Weekly have created a base definition for what a digital asset might be. What do you consider digital assets in your environment?

Computer Weekly proposed the following definition for digital assets: Digital Assets = Data (which is in files) + Content (which is in the form of metadata). Another definition from The Balance is: “Digital assets are items you can buy, sell, and hold online, but typically can’t physically see or touch” and “Digital assets are anything that can be stored and transmitted electronically through a computer or other digital device and are associated with ownership or use rights”. This is quite a wide definition but so are the numerous variations of types of digital assets.

We live in an environment where digital assets now start to represent every tangible and intangible “thing” that we can assert ownership over. We now want to control and add value to these assets.

Digital assets have evolved over time and continue to evolve for example the latest Chatbots or GPT.

Digital assets are now so broad and complex, that a list will fill a number of pages. To mention but a few for example your various forms of music, movies, education, gaming, banking, photos, books, all your social media accounts, podcasts, videos, websites and various software registrations, and crypto currencies.

I am sure you can add many more digital assets that you paid for or received for free. What about the software that you have built and developed, or you content that you have created? I have a whole library of over 3600+ e-books that I use regularly through a well know brand supplier within a specific environment.

How do you manage your digital assets?

What happens to this if something happens to you? Can it be inherited or not? Who will know your passwords or how to access your social media accounts for example?

I have to regularly check my social media to see if someone is still alive since they have not posted or interacted for a long while on the platform and no family has posted or monitored their profile. You might be wishing someone a happy birthday, only to receive a message later that the person passed away a long time ago.

Digital Asset Management or DAM

DAM is a type of digital media management tool. One of these tools is for example KeePass. It is a free simple yet very secure and effective tool to store all your different passwords and registration information with one master password.

You can then leave this master password in a secure place like a safety deposit box or your safe, so your family can access the information and benefit from your digital collections, registrations, software purchases or cryptocurrencies, that you have invested such a lot of time and money in collecting.

Your important digital documents can also be stored within secured online environments like Dropbox or One drive etc.

Not too long ago, we had warehouses filled with physical valuable documentation and information. Now, we need bigger and bigger data centres in order to host, protect and store our digital assets.

These assets will include but are not limited to:

  • your videos,
  • audio,
  • photos,
  • logos,
  • PDFs,
  • PPTs etc.

Some people’s digital assets are more valuable than their physical assets.

If you are a digital creator this will have an even bigger impact on these assets. Do you know what your digital assets are worth?

Although DAM started within the corporate environment to manage and protect their intellectual and proprietary property, which includes the pay-for-use software or content management systems (CMS) like your website or blog editing and creation software.

Many of you might publish your content on platforms like:

  • Facebook;
  • LinkedIn;
  • Twitter;
  • Instagram;
  • Pinterest etc.

The question is, who owns these online assets that you publish so freely?  

Revenue in the Digital Assets market

Revenue and especially cryptocurrencies, according to statistica.com is projected to reach the US$ 56 420 million mark in 2023 and it will keep on growing.

Do you have a legal right to your loved one’s digital assets?

That will depend on your country’s laws and the jurisdictions where these assets are kept. Many of these assets are kept in USA or China and some are in the EU countries. You will have to read the “fine print” that so many ignore when they create their online accounts on various platforms. This “fine print” spells out how you would be able to get access to these accounts of your loved ones. 

How can you protect these digital assets?

  1. Make a list of everything you access digitally or electronically, including anything that has a real monetary value such as digital music, books, movies etc that you have purchased or pay for use.
  2. Also make a list of things that have emotional worth to you and your family like videos, family photos, important emails etc.
  3. Make sure that you include the name and URL of every online account you access with a brief description of the services it provides as well as login information for someone to log in.
  4. The purpose is for someone to act as the executor of your online assets so do not expect that they would know. This can be done in KeePass, LastPass, Password Safe, Bitwarden apps or other similar software that you can have on your phone and computer.

    Keep in mind that these programmes might still be vulnerable since it depends on all your other security and your personal usage behaviour of suspicious sites or programmes. Nothing in our age is completely foolproof. Your online and security behaviour is still your organisation's biggest risk.

    Just be cautious, that not any other unauthorised person will be able to steal or access this very personal information.
  5. Keep your list updated with changes on a regular basis. Add anything that you might have forgotten for example your account information for your Xbox, PlayStation, or Wii consoles.
  6. Did you remember your online payment sites, or your doctor, dentist or other provider sites like DSTV, Netflix, Brit Box etc?
  7. What about your iPhone, Nook, Kindle etc accounts?
  8. Remember to add the answers to security questions that you have created to verify your identities.
  9. Now determine what should happen with each of your online accounts and/or digital assets. Which accounts can just be closed, and which accounts should be transferred to someone else to settle your estate such as financial accounts?
  10. Can you add a curator for your family photos to be handed down and add some new images? The more detail you can provide the better for your loved ones because laws are continually developing with regards to digital assets.
  11. Put your wishes in writing so that your digital executor will be able to process your digital assets and online accounts as you wish. Currently, our SA estate laws are very far behind the modern development around digital assets.
  12. Assign someone you trust to serve as your “digital executor (DE)”. It should be someone different to the executor of your estate. The DE should understand why this is important to you.
  13. Reference your online account/digital asset list in your will. Do not include the list though. This allows you to regularly update your list and changes.
  14. Where accounts like Facebook and some others allow you to create a Facebook Legacy contact, do that sooner rather than later.
  15. In addition, a surviving loved one can also request the memorialisation or deletion of your Facebook account, even if you didn't select this Legacy Contact option. See your Facebook for how to inform them of your loved one’s passing.

To summarise,

We can classify Electronic Assets as textual content (digital assets); images (media assets); multimedia (media assets) or a combination of different forms.

 The most important aspect is that you need to take steps now to help your survivors to access and protect your online assets later. It is not as easy as keeping your great grand parent's chair that they have inherited from their great-grandparents and that has been around for many generations.

If you want your digital assets to remain in your family, you have to act now and do something about it.

Contact us to assist you with your free will which can include your digital assets will as well.

Next time I will discuss the importance of Professional Indemnity Insurance and the place, role, and purpose it will have in your life to protect your family estate.