Becoming the first state to pass broad legislation related to the ownership of digital accounts, a new law in Delaware allows residents to pass digital assets to heirs, just like physical and financial assets. This means Delaware residents can pass along access to email accounts like Gmail, social media accounts like Facebook or Twitter, documents stored on services like Dropbox and pretty much any type of photos, music or video that’s stored within the cloud. According to Ars Technica, the rights afforded to the account holder under “any end user license agreement” will be transferred to the heir or heirs.
Excited that the law has taken effect in Delaware, the nonprofit Uniform Law Commission released a statement which read “In the modern world, digital assets have largely replaced tangible ones. Documents are stored in electronic files rather than in file cabinets. Photographs are uploaded to websites rather than printed on paper. However, the laws governing fiduciary access to these digital assets are in need of an update.”
Alternatively, a representative of a security organization that represents companies like Google and Facebook released an opposing statement which read “This law takes no account of minimizing intrusions into the privacy of third parties who communicated with the deceased. This would include highly confidential communications to decedents from third parties who are still alive—patients of deceased doctors, psychiatrists, and clergy, for example—who would be very surprised that an executor is reviewing the communications.”
Interestingly, this new law will force Facebook and Twitter to alter their current policy concerning accounts for the deceased in Delaware. Currently, neither company will send the login information for an account of a deceased person to the surviving heir. Instead, Twitter will deactivate the page upon request from the surviving family and Facebook allows family members to make a memorization request to archive the account.
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