New CA Law Addresses What Happens to Digital Assets Upon Death

Although estate planning and issues related to inheritance are generally outside the wheelhouse of this blog, a new California statute is worth noting here because of its intersection with internet law.

Known as the “Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act,” the law creates to three-part hierarchy to determine who can access someone's “digital assets” after they die. “Digital assets” include communications and information in someone’s e-mail and social media accounts, blogs and websites.

A party identified in a decedent’s account instructions (such as in Facebook’s “legacy contacts” setting) takes priority over anyone else. If no such instructions were left, then instructions left in the decedent’s will control. Finally, if the will does not address digital assets, then a probate court must look to the terms of use of the service at issue to determine who may have access to the account.

California will join nineteen other states that have enacted similar statutes when the law goes into effect on January 1, 2017.

Photo by Skydude176 at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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