At first sight, passing on your digital assets to your loved ones in the event of your demise may seem simple but, as Paul Rossini explains, it may not be quite as straightforward as you thought. However, he has a solution to offer.
Can you start by telling us how you came up with the idea for AssetPass?
I first became acutely aware of the importance of digital legacy planning back in 2009, when my friend who served in the armed forces was to be redeployed. He and his wife had just had a new baby girl, and he was concerned that she would never hear his voice again. So, I suggested he record a video on my PC, so I could produce a DVD to keep until she was old enough to understand, should the worst happen.
So, that is what he did, and the DVD was done. A beer later and he was off to a war zone. I recounted the scenario to my wife but, instead of the positive reaction I’d hoped for from my ingenious idea, she took one look at me and shook her head. “What have you done?” she said.
A single DVD of what could be his last words to his daughter. She said, “Where are you going to keep that safe for 15 years from now?” Two choices crossed my mind: either cross my fingers and hope he came back, or go away and see if any platform existed to upload the DVD for safekeeping and delivery to his daughter at the correct time. Back then, when the digital era was just beginning, there was nothing available.
So, in the days of no smartphones, no cloud storage, no broadband, and no data encryption models, I set about building a solution from scratch. e-memoz.com was born, the very first digital legacy and estate planning platform, which I then successfully sold in 2014.
It was years later that I realised that with the increased digitisation of our personal assets, from cherished photos and voice notes to contract and digital wealth assets like cryptocurrencies and NFTs, the challenge of digital legacy was far from resolved. That’s when I set about launching AssetPass.
Digital legacy is a relatively new concept. Could you explain what it means and why it’s important in today’s digital age?
Our favourite memories and important documents used to be kept as physical objects: photo albums, scrapbooks, postcards, contracts, and certificates of ownership. That meant that, when we died, these things could easily be handed on to the loved ones we left behind. But in the digital era, a lot of that information is stored digitally. Things like photos, videos, voice recordings, documents, and even social media logins are not easily accessible without a password and can’t be passed over easily without proper legacy planning.
Indeed, most people just assume that their digital wealth assets such as cryptocurrencies, NFTs and digital tokens fall under the same wishes as per their last will and testament and hope that their families will have access to these after they have passed on.
Unfortunately, this is strictly not the case, as the only way to retrieve digital assets is via the use of a complex private key password and digital wallet address. This is virtually impossible to leave in a written will and, if you do, it immediately exposes your secret key to your digital wealth to whoever sees the will, including your lawyer and the office staff.
But, more importantly, when the will is executed, it becomes a public document in probate for anyone in the world to access and view, so your secret key to your digital wealth could be used to steal your digital assets without a trace.
To prevent this awful situation from happening, where loved ones are locked out of their inherited digital assets, often with no way to recover them, we launched AssetPass.
How does AssetPass help individuals manage and pass on their digital assets?
AssetPass makes passing on your digital assets easy with a secure and simple four-stage trustee process.
Users simply create an account and upload their important digital items into a secure album. These can be videos, photos, voice recordings, last wills and testaments, legal documents, important private keys and wallet addresses to crypto, login credentials to online accounts for banking or social media, and anything else the user deems to be significantly important. This album is encrypted and stored in a secure cloud location.
The user then simply assigns trustees and beneficiaries using their email addresses. AssetPass then controls the release of your digital assets to the assigned beneficiaries through a unique Trustee Release Control Process (TRCP). Only your assigned “trustee”, who could be a friend, partner, spouse, or lawyer, for example, has the authority to release the digital assets to the designated beneficiaries. And even when a trustee activates the release, AssetPass performs a rigorous heartbeat control check against the original owner of the album via the app, their phone number, and email to assess their status so as to ensure that they have passed away. Only then will the digital assets be released, using a secure key exchange.
This means that users can be assured that their beneficiaries will not be locked out from accessing important and valuable digital assets in the event that they are incapacitated or pass away, without having to compromise the security or privacy of their accounts or assets today.
What are the biggest barriers you perceive to digital legacy planning?
Firstly, when it comes to planning for death, most people don’t feel comfortable discussing their affairs and preparing for this day. In fact, research from Canada Life found that half of UK adults do not have a will. However, those who delay planning and preparing for when the worst happens risk leaving their loved ones in a difficult situation, with the possibility of their estate and assets ending up in the wrong hands. This is especially true should a tragic accident happen, and this day could come sooner than expected. So, whilst the conversation might be difficult, those who plan effectively will give themselves and their loved ones peace of mind.
The second challenge we face is awareness. Many law firms and financial planners are unsure how to deal with digital assets in the will or estate planning process and are unaware that a solution exists that will allow their clients to securely store and pass on their digital assets. To address this, we have developed our web-based Enterprise Edition of AssetPass for release in October 2023 specifically to help legal practices become part of the solution in delivering a digital inheritance process.
Finally, what advice would you give to individuals who are just starting to consider their digital legacy?
Do not hesitate. It can be daunting and overwhelming to think about the future and negative scenarios, but it is important to ensure that your assets are safe and that your loved ones have access to them, should the worst happen.
Paul Rossini is the CEO and Co-Founder of AssetPass, the world’s leading digital asset platform. Paul has over 14 years of experience as a pioneer in the crypto space and as a leading innovator for Digital Legacy, having built the first-ever digital legacy platform e-memoz back in 2009.