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Law Proposed to Make Estate Planning with Digital Assets Easier

For Massachusetts residents starting to explore estate planning, handling digital assets can be challenging. Terms of use and privacy laws have not quite caught up with the advancements in technology, and the last thing you want to deal with while grieving a loved one’s death is fighting for access to online accounts. One state, however, has proposed legislation that would explicitly deal with what happens to a person’s online accounts after death.

The bill, on its way to the Delaware General Assembly, would require online companies to give control of the accounts to the designated person in the will or trust, usually the estate executor, within 30 days of a request. The bill also provides for civil penalties to be implemented for companies who refuse to comply.

Those against such legislation often point to the possible privacy concerns, but the bill’s sponsor says that the proposal includes safeguards to protect personal privacy, as it is possible to designate certain assets, including digital ones, to be excluded from the estate. Proponents of the bill also claim that there is a difference between having access to the account and actually being able to do something with it.

The bill has received support from the Delaware Bar Association. While seven states have legislation that grants executors varying levels of access to digital assets, this would be the first comprehensive law. If approved, it may spark similar legislation in states across the rest of the country. With Massachusetts residents are becoming increasingly dependent on the Internet and technology, it is important for digital assets to be clearly outlined in an estate plan. This can help make things simpler for the executor and beneficiaries.

Source: Delaware Public Media, “Bill seeks to address digital asset issues in estate planning” James Dawson, May. 16, 2014

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