What happens to a person’s digital assets when he or she passes away? They still have email, social media, and bank accounts. This could be an uncomfortable topic. However, any unauthorized access to a person’s online account that is password protected will constitute a violation of state or federal law. For example, checking on a deceased relative’s emails or wrapping up any lingering business is forbidden as it can violate Section 2511 (unlawful interception) or Section 2701 (unlawful access). Yet, California, in hopes to give an acceptable bit of leeway to the federal law has passed a new statute. So, what is this statute? How might it allow you to take care of the lingering communications of decedents? What can a person do?
Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access To Digital Assets Act
The Act allows an individual to use either an online tool to give access to online data or digital assets, including, but not limited to, electronic communications. In the absence of a tool, a trustee, personal representative, or other fiduciary, could be named via a will or other instrument. While this doesn’t impair the terms-of-use, it does allow a custodian (a/k/a “service provider”) to grant the fiduciary either full access to an account, sufficient access to complete the necessary task, or access to physical copies of digital assets. Naturally, a service provider can charge for this task and does not need to disclose deleted assets.