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Fergusson Law shares their latest news, the latest legal news and provides some legal advice on this blog.
Principal of Fergusson Law in Edinburgh.

Digital Assets in your Will

We all use the web daily. The number of online accounts and the value of digital assets are only going to increase. So why do so few people consider what will happen to their digital assets when they die?

The story of Gerald Cotten may ring a bell with you.  £100m locked up, with his executors and heirs unable to reach it.   Read all about it here.

Think of two categories.

  1. Financial Information - While not being an asset itself, it can lead us to our assets and liabilities such as online bank accounts, savings and investments, PayPal, eBay, and shopping accounts.
  2. Digital Assets - With value in their own right, whether a character in World of Warcraft, our music downloads or a Kindle library.

You might wonder what the problem is. The law covers all of this either with wills, for those who make them, or the rules on intestacy for those who do not. Why are digital assets any different to paper-based ones? Executors or next of kin just ingather the assets of the deceased, settle their liabilities, pay any inheritance tax that is due and then distribute the estate. There are, in fact, 3 problems:

  • access
  • valuation
  • location

Most of the internet or digital service providers regard their service as a lifetime service and do not see the concept of a digital legacy at all. It is a common contractual term that when an account becomes permanently inactive it will be deleted. It would be much better for you to engage with the service provider and ensure that you have made your wishes known as to what you would like to happen after your death. For example, state that access should be passed to a certain individual. Google provides an Inactive Account Manager service for this purpose.  Apple say that their digital downloads are for your lifetime only. Similarly, your Photos in iCloud will disappear. You could store your Apple ID and password with your Will so that executors can deal with your data. You might be surprised to know that the balance on some dormant accounts could be paid to the Treasury of Luxembourg or indeed to the Malta Lotteries and Gaming Authority.

Further issues arise where the executors or next of kin have to value the digital assets. Provided they can locate them, this often will not be a problem but digital assets in the form of pure gaming characters may require specialist assistance. There are exchanges on which such virtual items can be sold, such as Sony's Live Gamer Exchange.

The solicitors at Fergusson Law are experienced and ready to advise you about including your digital assets in your will.

This article has been updated from the original first posted on April 2014.

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DISINHERITING THE FAMILY? TAKE ADVICE BEFORE YOU DO IT. 2018 UPDATE

A recent ruling in the Court of Appeal in England and Wales highlights that although you can leave your money to whom you like there are some limitations, wherever you live in the UK.

England, Scotland and Wales, like the United States, have a tradition of "testamentary freedom" - the idea being that you can, in theory, leave your wealth to whoever you like.

Countries like France, Spain and the Republic of Ireland, by contrast, have fixed heirship shares.

However in Scotland, children and spouses may have "legal rights" to a portion of the deceased's estate.

A surviving spouse, or civil partner and children are entitled to part of the deceased person's moveable estate. In Scots law, heritable property means land and buildings, while moveable estate includes such things as money, shares, cars, furniture and jewellery.

The surviving spouse or civil partner is entitled to one-third of the deceased's moveable estate if the deceased left children or descendants of children, or to one-half of it if the deceased left no such children or descendants.

In England and Wales the Inheritance Act of 1975 section 2 sets out that close relatives may apply to a court for a variation to a will ‘such as to make reasonable financial provision for the applicant’.

The bar is set high in that an applicant must show real need or that they were led to believe that they were to receive an inheritance and acted on that belief.

One dispute currently going through the High Court involves Clive Shaw, 55, a dairy farmer who reportedly does not like cows, He is making a claim for the family farm after a disagreement with   his   parents who have written him out of their wills.   

It is the latest in a series of similar legal claims made this year. Lucy Habberfield brought a claim in the High Court in January 2018 against her mother. After the death of her father, her mother became the sole owner of the family farm   despite repeated promises over the years that Ms Habberfield   would inherit.   She had devoted much of her life to the farm working long hours for little pay. She was awarded £1.2m  to set up her own farm.

professionally drawn up Will covers all these eventualities and you must show that the needs of your close family were considered fully.

For advice in this matter please get in touch.

FERGUSSON LAW HIGH ACHIEVER FOR NATIONAL CHARITY CAMPAIGN

Fergusson Law has raised over £1,800 for charity this year after taking part in a will-writing campaign which asks solicitors to write wills for local people and instead of paying a fee, asks only for a voluntary donation. 

Fergusson Law has taken part in the annual Will Aid scheme and raised £1,870 in the month-long fundraiser.   

Janice Nisbet, from the firm, commented: “Our team have been delighted to take part in Will Aid and have worked very hard.  We were able to encourage lots of local people to have their wills written, which too many people put off until it is too late and at the same time supporting 9 well-loved charities.  We are happy to donate our time towards Will Aid. It is a great way of generating a link with the community. We would recommend that other law firms get involved."

Stephen Gillies from the British Red Cross paid the firm a visit to present them with a certificate.  He said: “We are very grateful to Fergusson Law and the Will Aid scheme for this generous contribution. The Red Cross uses donations to reach people in crisis, here in the UK and all around the world.”

Will Aid, which is celebrating its 30th year since launching, is a charity will-writing scheme that raises money for 9 wonderful charities: ActionAid, British Red Cross, Christian Aid, NSPCC, Save The Children, Sightsavers, Age UK, SCIAF (Scotland) and Trocaire (Northern Ireland). 

 “I would like to offer my heartfelt thanks to Fergusson Law and let them know that thanks to them, lives will change for the better and people who need it will continue to receive the help and support that the charities work so hard to provide.”