Digital Assets

What happen to you digital assets when you die?  Can you legally give access to a person that you designate in your will?  A short answer is: we don’t know.  The laws in the control of digital assets after the owner’s death is as clear as mud.  The Uniform Law Commission passed the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (UFADAA) in July 2014, with the goal of providing a legal channel for fiduciaries such as a will executor, power of attorney or trustee to access the digital assets of the principal.  Delaware is the first state to adapt UFADAA into law. Several states, including Texas, are now considering the Act as well.  But until this happens, the access right to your digital assets will be governed by the individual agreements that you entered into when you open the account with each provider.  For instance, currently,

  • Google: you can set up an “inactive account manager” in advance to designate how you want your photos, email and documents to be handled if your account becomes inactive (due to your incapacity or death).  If you die without setting up anything in advance, Google may agree to close the account or provide content to a family member or representative on a case by case basis.
  • Apple: First, the softwares, songs or movies that you download (licensed, to be exact) are not transferable.  So those purchases will die with you.  As to your personal photos and videos that you stored in iCloud, and also to the final disposition of your iCloud and iTune account, Apple will decide on a case by case basis.
  • Yahoo: It is Yahoo’s position that your account and contents are not transferable and any right to your online content terminates upon your death.
  • Twitter: Twitter seems to be the most flexible in the sense that it is willing to work with family member to grant access to the deceased’s online contents.
  • Facebook: Family member or an executor of the deceased may request to have the account closed and removed.

Until relevant digital asset laws are established, users should be aware of the policy of individual service provider when it comes to accessing the digital assets upon their death.