Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets and Digital Accounts Act, 12 Del. C. §§ 5001 – 5007 (2014).
On August 12, 2014, the General Assembly of the State of Delaware adopted the Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act sponsored by Rep. Darryl Scott (D-Dover). The Act takes effect on January 1, 2015 and aims to solve the problem of what happens to online accounts after the account holder passes away. The State of Delaware has become one of very few jurisdictions to adopt special rules for this matter.
The Act allows a fiduciary to “have the same access as the [deceased] account holder” within 30 days of making a written request to the account “custodian.” In a departure from other statutes, the Act assumes that fiduciaries “have the lawful consent of the account holder” even when the account holder has not explicitly provided for this privilege. 12 Del. C. § 5005.
The Act was prepared by attorneys from the Delaware State Bar Association who were cooperating with colleagues from the Uniform Law Commission. The new Delaware Act is largely based on the principles of the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (“UFADAA”) adopted by the Uniform Law Commission in its July 2014 session.
One of the notable features of the Delaware Act is that it adopts a relatively broad notion of fiduciaries covering personal representatives appointed by will, guardians, trustees, and agents. 12 Del. C. § 5002(9). Though the Act only applies to estates governed by Delaware law, its effects may be far-reaching; digital assets will be subject to the law even if the tech companies (or the deceased herself) are not residents of Delaware.
The proliferation of various digital communication media facilitated much discussion on whether third parties (such as spouses, children or estate managers) should be given access to the deceased person’s online accounts, and, if so, who should be authorized to get access and how should they be allowed to dispose the digital assets in those accounts. (more…)