The Florida Senate Judiciary committee has unanimously cleared a piece of state legislation that would provide more clarity on how digital assets should be treated. If the bill is passed and approved by the governor, it will allow Florida estate planners to elect someone of their choosing to access and control their digital accounts — including social media accounts, financial accounts and other types of accounts — after they have died.
Under bill SB 494, digital assets are defined as text messages, emails, digital photographs, online documents, electronic bank account statements and other types of digitally stored records, information and communications. The person who manages the digital assets can be anyone the estate planner chooses — an attorney, a friend, a family member or someone else. The new law also has provisions to protect online service providers from liability relating to the responsibilities of digital custodians of online accounts.
Apple, Google and Facebook representatives have all said that they approve of the bill. In fact, Facebook has already implemented some important protocols that determine how Facebook accounts should be treated after someone dies. The new “Legacy Contact” feature lets Facebook users appoint a Facebook friend who will care for their account following their death. Alternatively, the feature allows people to tell Facebook that they would prefer their account to be deleted when they have died.
If the law passes in Florida, our state will join nine others that have established laws governing the control of digital assets following an individual’s death. Florida residents who have questions about how their digital assets should be included in their estate plans may want to speak with a qualified lawyer to organize their digital estate plans.
Source: Florida Politics, “Digital assets bill breezes through first committee,” Jim Rosica, Nov. 17, 2015