Wednesday, August 20, 2014

You Can Now Inherit Digital Data And Accounts In Delaware

In the sad event of a loved one's passing their physical possessions typically go to their family members. Sadly however, the same inheritance laws generally do not apply to digital accounts, such as email or social media accounts like Twitter and Facebook. Which unfortunately, due to policies prohibit the sharing of passwords and generally deny access to anyone other than the original owner. Delaware is looking to change that in a major way. They just became the first state to pass a "Digital Inheritance" law.

Last week, according to Arstechnica, Gov. Jack Markell signed the Fiduciary Access to Digital Access and Digital Accounts Act. This law gives heirs and executors of wills the legal authority to take control of a digital asset or devices, just like any other physical document or item.

With the passage of the law, family members of the deceased or those that have been incapacitated will now have full legal access to any and all digital assets. Allowing them to either continue the usage of say their social media account (perhaps as a tribute page) or granting them access to important things like contact lists for email accounts.

According to Ars some states, including Idaho and Nevada, have few existing provisions pertaining to limited digital assets for heirs. These existing laws however are not nearly as broad as the new Delaware law and do not grant access to nearly as much data or accounts.

For now, the state's version of UFADAA only applies to residents of Delaware, however it is noted that people creating family trusts could conceivably use this Delaware law to their advantage, even without residing in Delaware. They could setup the trust to be governed by Delaware law

“If a California resident dies and his will is governed by California law, the representative of his estate would not have access to his Twitter account under HB 345,” Kelly Bachman, a spokeswoman for the Delaware governor’s office, said by e-mail. “But if a person dies and his will is governed by Delaware law, the representative of that person’s estate would have access to the decedent’s Twitter account under HB 345. So the main question in determining whether HB 345 applies is not where the company having the digital account (i.e., Twitter) is incorporated or even where the person holding the digital account resides.”

While this is seen as an important first step, Suzanne Walsh, an attorney with Cummings and Lockwood in Connecticut and chair of the UFADAA committee, told Ars that she is hoping more states will eventually adopt their own versions of the law further guaranteeing access to digital accounts..

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