Legislation addressing estate planning in the digital realm is headed for the Delaware General Assembly. A new bill from Rep. Darryl Scott (D-Dover) would require companies like Google to hand over control of users accounts to a trusted person outlined in their will. Companies would be required to give estate executors access to accounts within 30 days of a request or face possible civil penalties.
It can be very difficult for a loved one to obtain access to a decedent's email or other online accounts after his or her death, because of privacy and licensing agreements. A provider’s legal terms of service may allow the company to simply deactivate the address. This can be a problem.
An article on the Delaware Public Media website, "Bill seeks to address digital asset issues in estate planning," says that privacy concerns are valid, but there are safeguards built in to the proposal.
People can designate assets they don’t want to be included as part of their estate. While an executor of your estate might have access to your stock portfolio or bank account, they can’t necessarily touch them until properly authorized. It would be the same with digital assets under this proposal in the Delaware Legislature.
The digital assets bill has been in the works for more than three years and has backing from the Delaware Bar Association. If it passes, the bill would be the first comprehensive law of its kind in the state. Seven other states grant different levels of access for digital assets.
Whether your state has this law or not, you should check with your estate planning attorney and make sure you have the proper paperwork ready so your spouse or loved ones can gain access to your information after you pass.
Reference: Delaware Public Media (NPR) (May 16, 2014) "Bill seeks to address digital asset issues in estate planning"