What happens to social media accounts once the user dies? One state finally has the answer.
In August, Delaware enacted the first law explicitly granting executors the power to deal with a deceased’s social media accounts. The Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets and Digital Accounts Act dictates that after death a person’s digital assets – including social media and e-mail accounts – become part of his or her estate, accessible to heirs just like any other assets.
The statute defines “digital assets” broadly to cover “data, texts, e-mail, audio, video, images, sounds, social media content, social networking content, health care records, health care insurance records, computer codes, computer programs, software, software licenses, databases, or the like, including . . . usernames and passwords.”
An exception was carved out of the statute for digital accounts of an employer regularly used by an employee in the usual course of business. A testator can also dictate that an account should be closed, left alone, or not accessed by the estate and heirs.
Upon a valid written request, any company that controls a person’s digital assets must provide the executor for the estate information necessary to gain access to the assets (such as username and password), and the law grants the company controlling the digital assets immunity for complying with valid requests for account access. Contrary provisions in service agreements or privacy policies are void.
The new law takes effect January 1, 2015.
To read the Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets and Digital Accounts Act, click here.
Why it matters: Delaware’s law applies only to residents of the state, one of the smallest in the nation. It remains to be seen whether other states will follow Delaware’s lead and enact their own versions of the model legislation adopted by the Uniform Law Commission earlier this year.