Delaware enacts digital assets and accounts law: Death in age of Internet


Keeping up with the Internet age is a new law passed by Delaware, which enables residents to entrust their digital assets and accounts to their loved ones, just like financial assets, after their death.

The House Bill (HB) 345, "Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets and Digital Accounts Act" was signed by Gov. Jack Markell last week.  This legislation gives heirs the authority to have legal control of a digital account or device, similar to a physical document or asset.

By enacting this law, Delaware has the distinction of becoming the first U.S. state to do so. The law, championed by the Uniform Law Commission, will ensure that legal heirs get the right to access the digital assets of the deceased. The digital assets would comprise emails, digital photographs, as well as social networking accounts.

"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," said Uniform Law Commission officials in a statement.

Despite several tech companies like Twitter and Facebook being incorporated in Delware, this law will only be applicable to residents of the state. Currently, states like Idaho and Nevada have provisions relating to digital assets for heirs. However, these provisions are not as encompassing as the Delaware law.

Presently, Twitter enables family members to ask for the deactivation of a loved one's account. However, the microblogging site does not pass on the account password. Facebook's policy allows users request for the deceased person's account to be removed or turned into a memorial. However, the social networking site does not disclose the login information as it is a violation of its policies.

Hopefully, the new legislation will be adopted by other states as well. This law is a step forward in the digital age and will make the management of digital assets of those who are incapacitated or have passed away seamless in the long term.

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