Recently great efforts have been made to allow trustees and executors access to a deceased person’s digital accounts. Some large technology companies have criticized those efforts.
When their loved ones have passed away, many people experience great difficulty gaining access to the deceased’s digital accounts, such as email accounts, social network accounts, and online bank accounts. In some cases, as soon as the online company hosting the account is officially informed that an account holder has passed away the account is closed and all of the content is subject to deletion. This has caused frustration and angst for many grieving families. In response, some states have passed laws providing access to digital accounts if certain conditions are met.
More recently, the Uniform Law Commission has proposed a uniform law to resolve the issue. Google and Facebook have previously criticized the proposal. Now, as reported by the National Law Review in “Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets and Accounts – Uniform Access to Digital Assets Act ‘UFADAA’”, Yahoo’s Chief Legal Director for Public Policy has criticized the uniform proposal in a blog post.
The tech companies charge that the proposal assumes the deceased wanted to allow access. That is true. However, unless stated otherwise in a legal document, the proposal does allow access to digital accounts. Companies who do not necessarily have the best record on protecting customers’ privacy are now objecting to this proposal on privacy grounds. The battle between the tech giants and the Uniform Law Commission is one that will be played out from state to state in the next few years.
In the meantime, contact your estate planning attorney for guidance in your specific state.
Reference: National Law Review (October 3, 2014) “Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets and Accounts – Uniform Access to Digital Assets Act ‘UFADAA’