Digital assets and digital accounts present many potential problems and issues upon the death of the owner. Delaware has taken a major step forward to address some of those issues-under a newly enacted Delaware law, they are now treated the same as any other physical asset. The Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets and Digital Accounts Act was signed into law by the Governor of Delaware this morning. This is the first law that gives access to a person’s “digital estate” following death or incapacity. Among the assets included under the act are: email, cloud storage, social media, health records, licenses and databases. On a go-forward basis, if a person dies and is a resident of Delaware at the time of death, companies are obligated to provide the username, login and password information to the estate representative. The company would be able to withhold this information only if they were directed that the account not be accessible in the event of death or incapacity.
This new law addresses some of the problems faced when a loved-one passes away; such as the mother who wanted access to her son’s blog detailing his experiences in the military prior to him being killed in active duty, yet the service provider would not release the information. While Delaware is the first state to pass legislation in this area, it is anticipated that many states will soon follow suit. We hope California will be one of them.
To follow along with how California is progressing see SB 849 introduced on January 9, 2014 and amended on April 21, 2014. It is currently listed as pending with the Senate Judiciary Committee
For further information about preserving you digital assets please see my previous article.