What are digital assets?
In case you’re not familiar with digital assets, let me explain simply. Digital assets refer to your online accounts such as cryptocurrency accounts, e-wallets, social media accounts, emails, and any other accounts that exist on the internet. Any account that exists online is considered a digital asset.
It’s important to note that your personal banking account should not be confused with your digital assets, as it functions like a physical account. After you pass away, the money in your bank account will be treated differently than your digital assets. Digital assets are unlike physical assets or accounts that are not internet-based.
When it comes to inheritance in Malaysia, physical assets and non-internet-based accounts are straightforward. All you need to do is create a Will and list these assets, then have it legalized. Once it’s legalized, your designated beneficiaries will be able to inherit their portion of the listed assets.
What’s the difference in inheriting digital assets?
Digital assets differ from other assets because there are currently no specific laws that dictate their distribution. While some states in the US, Australia, and the UK are developing laws for this purpose, the best course of action for now is to include them in your Will or Trust. This can help your family members navigate the legal process of retrieving your digital assets with minimal complications.
Anthony Bourdain, the late celebrity and TV personality, serves as an endearing example of why we should remember to include our digital assets in our estate planning. He bequeathed his frequent flier miles to his second wife, showcasing a relatively new concept globally. Although more and more countries are beginning to explore this topic in recent years.
In regards to the statement about retrieving digital assets with minimal complications, the lack of specific laws regarding digital assets means that the decision to allow access to social media accounts after a user’s death ultimately rests with the service provider. Digital accounts can be broadly categorized into two types: financial and non-financial. Financial accounts may include online trading accounts or e-wallets, while non-financial accounts may include assets of sentimental value, such as photos in a social media account, that may still have financial worth. For example, a famous author may have unfinished manuscripts stored in the cloud that could be monetized.
Digital assets of a financial nature that are connected to a bank account are easier to retrieve. However, assets such as cryptocurrency accounts are more complicated because there is no central agency in control. The challenge here is figuring out how to get the beneficiaries to access the amount of money held in cryptocurrencies.
To prepare for the distribution of cryptocurrency accounts, it is important to list down the login IDs for each account and create step-by-step instructions for accessing them, especially if the beneficiaries are not tech-savvy. Additionally, instructions should be created on how to withdraw profits from the accounts.
You will need to appoint a digital facilitator who you trust to retrieve the digital assets for the executor, who will be responsible for asset distribution. It is advisable that the digital facilitator should not take action in the distribution process as some assets, such as cryptocurrencies, are considered income.
You are encouraged to also create a digital asset memorandum to list your passwords, which you should keep and update over time. The digital facilitator should be informed of the document’s whereabouts upon your death. In the worst-case scenario, a lawyer can be consulted to assist with the process, and you can also guide your appointed lawyer as necessary.
Digital assets may not seem significant, but they hold value and importance. It is expected that new laws will be introduced to regulate digital assets, particularly as some countries attempt to regulate the cryptocurrency market. As these laws evolve, we will adapt accordingly.
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