Online assets

Do you have money in the cloud?

I’m going on holiday soon, to Santorini in the Greek Islands. I booked my flights using Avios* – for 34,000 Avios and £50 cash I got a return flight with BA in business class (one has to treat oneself occasionally). Now BA, for some unfathomable reason, has ridiculously high cash rates for the Greek Islands. Had I tried to book just with cash it would have cost £1,054! So those Avios, on this occasion anyway, had a value to me of £1,004 or 2.95p each. (That, by the way, is an excellent result – it is commonly thought that 1p per Avios is about right).

So this set me thinking. If those Avios are potentially worth over £1,000, how much other ‘stuff’ of value have I got floating around online? There are books on my Kindle, music downloads, loyalty points from all those high street stores that I’m not so loyal to, and so on. My cloud-life could be worth a lot more than imagined. And I’m not alone, I’m sure. There must be uncountable millions of value out there in people’s electronic lives. But what happens to all this when you die? If you haven’t kept records who is to know it’s there? Can you leave your internet value in your will?

Going back to BA the answer is no. The T&Cs state: upon the death of a Member, Avios Points, Tier Points and Lifetime Tier Points accumulated but unused at the time of death shall be cancelled. Wow – Inheritance Tax is 40% but BA’s own death tax is 100%.

However, there is online evidence that BA will be flexible on this. A ‘miles and points’ website recently quoted a solicitor who had dealt with a number of estates where the deceased had an Avios balance as one of their ‘assets’. In each case he had written to BA with a copy of the Grant of Probate. Provided the residuary beneficiary has their own BA Avios account it appears that BA will follow the wishes of the deceased and transfer the Avios.

It would seem sensible therefore to keep records of what you ‘own’ in the cloud and to leave express instructions in your will. This does of course lead to one little problem – you will probably have to tell your executors what your passwords are… and remember to update them every time you have to update your password! Or worse, change all your passwords if you fall out with your executors.

I’m not advising you to share your passwords, but this is clearly going to be an issue that needs further thought. Perhaps I’ll turn my mind to it as my cloud money is spent above the clouds next week.

*For those who don’t know, Avios is the currency of the British Airways (and some other airlines) loyalty programme. They can be collected from numerous sources – not just flights – such as online shops, some credit cards, car hire companies, hotels etc. They can be redeemed for flights, hotels, car hire, online shopping, even cases of wine.