Most people have what is referred to as digital assets or digital property such as email accounts, social media accounts, and yet there is no federal legislation regarding digital property.
Fortunately, several states have acknowledged the need to create laws to protect the account holder’s digital assets. The states participating have created laws such as the Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act which grants the deceased’s will executors, or as digital estate planning website Memorializeme refers to as your “Agent”, access to your digital accounts in order to manage them after your passing.
Hopefully, the states that have not yet considered creating laws protecting one’s digital assets will follow suit, and recognize that it is a true issue. An issue which needs to be addressed in order to avoid adding more burden on the grieving family member of the deceased.
If your state is not listed below, it means that your state has not yet passed laws to address these issues. When planning your estate, it is always a good idea to consult a licensed estate attorney in your state to help you better understand your state laws. Here is how you can create a digital estate plan.
Law: SB 262 Public Act No. 05-136
Description: Executors may access email accounts. The state requires a death certificate and documentation of the executor’s appointment before the estate’s representative can see the deceased person’s emails or social networking accounts. (see also Proposed Bill 5227 introduced January 11, 2013, status).
Status: Effective October 1, 2005
Law: Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets and Digital Accounts Act – House Bill # 345 w/HA 1 + SA 1
Description: Upon written request, « fiduciaries » (i.e. Power of Attorney, Status: Passed June 30, 2014; Effective January 1, 2015
(Click here for the full text of the Bill)
Law: Florida Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, SB 494, Chapter 740
Description: This law grants fiduciaries legal authority over the deceased’s digital assets and accounts. Here’s the official summary: « Authorizing a user to use an online tool to allow a custodian to disclose to a designated recipient or to prohibit a custodian from disclosing digital assets under certain circumstances; providing procedures for the disclosure of digital assets; authorizing the court to grant a guardian the right to access a ward’s digital assets under certain circumstances. »
Status: Signed into law on March 10, 2016; Effective July 1, 2016
Law: SB 1044
Description: Executors may access email accounts, social networking accounts, blogging and micro-blogging accounts, and short message services (text messages). A will or court order can restrict access to accounts. Idaho Statutes § 15–5–424(3)(z) also grants similar powers to a person’s conservator.
Status: Effective July 1, 2011
Law: Indiana Code 29-1-13 (SB 0212, 2007)
Description: Executors may access email accounts, social networking accounts, blogging and micro-blogging accounts, and short message services (text messages). The state requires a death certificate and documentation of the executor’s appointment before the estate’s representative can see the deceased person’s emails or social networking accounts.
Status: Effective July 1, 2007
Proposed law: LD 850 (HP 601)
Description: To Study the Issue of Inheritance of Digital Assets
Date introduced: March 5, 2013
Status: Passed May 21, 2013
Note: LD 850 (HP 601) is not a law governing estate administration. LD 850 (HP 601) is to study the issues involved in digital assets. To see the full text of the proposal, click here.
Proposed law: SB 0029: Estates and Trusts – Personal Representative – Administration of Internet-Based Accounts
Description: Authorizing a personal representative to take control of, conduct, continue, or terminate an account of a decedent on a social networking Web site, micro-blogging or short message service website, or electronic mail service website.
Date introduced: September 14, 2012
Status: Received Unfavorable Report by Judicial Proceedings on February 18, 2013
Full text: Click here for full text of the proposed Maryland law
Law: HB 5034: The Fiduciary Access To Digital Assets Act
Description: Provides for fiduciary access to digital assets; and to provide for the powers and procedures of the court that has jurisdiction over these matters. Genealogy writer Dick Eastman sums it up best on his blog: « The new law specifically states that all digital assets are bequeathed from one person to the next. It also allows digital information, including social media and website accounts, to be treated like other assets after the owner dies. »
Date introduced: October 10, 2015
Status: Approved March 29, 2016; Effective June 27, 2016
Full text: Click here for full text of the Michigan law
Proposed law: LB 783
Description: This bill provides the personal representative of a deceased individual the power to take control of or terminate any accounts or message services that are considered digital assets. The power can be limited by will or court order.
Date introduced: January 5, 2012
Status: Indefinitely postponed as of April 18, 2012
Full text: Click here for full text of the proposed Nebraska law
Law: SB 131
Description: Establishes provisions governing the termination of a decedent’s accounts on electronic mail, social networking, messaging and other web-based services.
Date introduced: February 18, 2013
Status: Approved June 1, 2013. Effective October 1, 2013
Full text: Click here for full text of the Nevada law
Proposed law: HB 0116
Description: An act relative to the powers of an executor or administrator to take control of a decedent’s social networking websites.
Date introduced: January 3, 2013
Status: Tabled as of January 30, 2013
Full text: Click here for full text of the proposed New Hampshire law
Proposed law: A2943
Description: Authorizes executor or administrator to take control of online accounts of deceased person.
Date introduced: May 14, 2012
Status: Passed by the Assembly June 21, 2012. Received in the Senate, referred to Senate Commerce Committee June 25, 2012
Full text: Click here for full text of the proposed New Jersey law
Proposed law: A823-2013
Description: Provides access to a decedent’s electronic mail, social networking and/or micro-blogging accounts to the executor or administrator of the decedent’s estate
Date introduced: January 9, 2013
Full text: Click here for full text of the proposed New York law
Law: SB 279 – S.L. 2013-91
Description: To access, take control of, handle, conduct, continue, distribute, dispose of, or terminate any digital assets, as defined in G.S. 28A-13-11(d)(3), and digital accounts, as defined in G.S. 28A-13-11(d)(2), owned by the decedent at death.
Date introduced: March 12, 2013
Status: The proposal for digital accounts was removed from the final version of the law, which was signed by the Governor on June 12, 2013.
Full text: Click here for full text of the North Carolina law
Proposed law: HB 1455
Description: A bill for an act to create and enact a new chapter to title 34 of the North Dakota Century Code, relating to internet accounts and workplace privacy of social media accounts.
Date introduced: January 21, 2013
Status: Failed April 9, 2013
Full text: Click here for full text of the North Dakota law
Name of law: HB 2800
Description: An act relating to probate procedure; authorizing an executor or administrator to have control of certain social networking, micro-blogging or e-mail accounts of the deceased; providing for codification; and providing an effective date. Allows provisions in a will or a formal order to control access.
Status: Effective November 1, 2010
Full text of law: Click here for full text of the Oklahoma law
Proposed law: SB 54
Description: Defines « digital accounts » and « digital assets » for purposes of administration of estates and trusts. Requires custodian of digital accounts and digital assets to transfer, deliver or provide access to accounts or electronic copies of assets to personal representative, conservator or settlor upon written request.
Date introduced: January 14, 2013
Status: In Senate Committee
Full text: Click here for full text of the proposed Oregon law
Proposed law: HB 2580
Description: An act amending Title 20 (Decedents, Estates and Fiduciaries) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in administration and personal representatives, providing for power over decedent account on social networking website, micro-blogging or short message service website or e-mail service website.
Date introduced: August 23, 2012
Full text: Click here for full text of the proposed Pennsylvania law
Law: Title 33: Probate practice and procedure, Chapter 33-27: Access to Decedents’ Electronic Mail Accounts Act, Section 33-27-3
Description: Executors may access email accounts. The state may require a death certificate and documentation of the executor’s appointment before the estate’s representative can see the deceased person’s emails or social networking accounts.
Status: Effective May 1, 2007
Proposed law: SB 914
Description: Fiduciary access to digital assets. Enables a fiduciary to gain access to the digital accounts and digital assets of the person or estate to whom he owes a fiduciary duty upon making a written request to the custodian of the digital accounts and digitals assets and submitting proof of the fiduciary relationship.
Date introduced: January 7, 2013
Full text: Click here for full text of the proposed Virginia law
Washington, D.C. (District of Columbia)