Virtual Assets began to appear in the Wills of Chinese People under 60
In July 2020, a 17 years old web fiction writer registered his will through the China Will Registration Center – a non-profit program jointly founded by the China Aging Development Foundation and the Beijing Sunny Senior Health Foundation. Wary of the possible consequences of his stressful lifestyle, the minor intends to pass down the copyrights of his web fiction stories and his savings to friends and parents, as per the contents of his will.
“I want to arrange my stuff by myself, provide my parents with some closure and leave some love behind,” he said in the China Will Registration White Paper 2021, published in March 2021.
Chinese laws stipulate that any person who is at least 16 years of age and is able to independently provide for themselves has a full civil capacity, and therefore is able to make their own will. The 17 years-old is not the only young or middle-aged person plotting their own farewell plan. Since 2020, the will registration numbers of the 80s’ generation have increased by 95%, the 90s’ ones by 80%, and the 00s’ by 14.42% In September 2014, Chen Kai, the director of China’s Will Registration Center, claimed that the best time to make a will would be in your 30s.
According to the White Paper, over the span of 4 years (2017 – 2021), a total of 7497 people under the age of 60 have registered their will through the China Will Registration Center. Roughly half of the registrants are from Shanghai or Beijing, which are two of the most rapidly developing, fast-paced and stressful cities in China. In the same time period, 445 of these wills had terms regarding virtual properties and assets included. The virtual assets, ranked by popularity, are: WeChat accounts (112), QQ accounts (107), Alipay accounts (93), internet game accounts (75), virtual currency (34), miscellaneous (33), and Taobao online shops (18).
QQ and WeChat, properties of China’s tech giant Tencent, are social platforms with online payment capabilities. Together, they are mentioned in roughly half of the 445 wills, containing virtual asset clauses. Meanwhile, Alipay and Taobao shops, both products of China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba, make up 24% of the total wills mentioning virtual assets.
China Will Registration Center’s statistics show that WeChat, QQ, and Alipay accounts have become important assets for young and middle-aged people. As mobile payment methods have taken over traditional banking in China, the issue of transferring and inheriting virtual property through the means of a will has become one of the biggest concerns for that age demographic.
Besides their monetary value, virtual assets are also prized for the person’s digital presence and online identity that they contain, and including them in wills could save one’s family members and loved ones from having to deal with any possible legal issues later on.