If you have a social media account, e-mail addresses or other digital assets, you may have occasionally wondered what would happen to these things in the event you die. While you can generally grant someone else access your accounts, this access may be contrary to the policies of the website that hosts or owns the digital asset. Currently, there are no specific laws that address this digital estate planning issue.
However, Nebraska lawmakers have recently introduced a bill that would make it the first state to adopt a law directly addressing digital estate planning issues. The proposed law states that an estate executor, known as a personal representative, will have the authority to not only access a decedents social media and e-mail accounts, but will also have the ability to control and dispose of these assets as he or she sees fit.
Currently sites like Twitter, Google, and Facebook have varying procedures involved when a member dies leaving behind an account. For example, Facebook will memorialize a deceased person’s account once it learns that the person has died, while Google and Twitter require notification from an executor that includes a copy of the death certificate plus other forms of notification.
Though the bill has not been approved or signed into law, it appears that this is the first kind of legislation introduced into a state legislature anywhere in the country. As digital assets become increasingly prevalent in estate planning issues, it appears likely that other states may follow with different forms of legislation.