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If you lived and died in Delaware, your family now gets access to your digital afterlife

If you lived and died in Delaware, your family now gets access to your digital afterlife


The state just enacted a broad measure to protect digital inheritance

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The law can't always keep pace with technology. We end up with digital remains haunting loved ones after death, and patchwork laws that don't always work out for the companies holding data, or the families who want it. The non-profit Uniform Law Commission has been pushing states to enact a broad, universal law that ensures heirs the right to digital assets, and it passed last week in Delaware.

There are still patchwork laws for digital inheritance.

While several states have measures in place to give heirs the right to, say, the email account of someone after death, the laws vary by state. You may have the right to access a dead loved one's social network in one state, but be beholden to Facebook's default rules in another, under which you either turn the account into a "memorial" or remove it entirely.

The Delaware law, House Bill (HB) 345, signed last week, is based on the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (or UFADAA). Likely the broadest measure in the US, the law states that "[a] fiduciary with authority over digital assets or digital accounts of an account holder under this chapter shall have the same access as the account holder," including under "any end user license agreement." In essence, they have the same access as the deceased, and any digital effects they have are treated the same as physical documents, regardless of where they're stored.

The law only applies to residents of Delaware, one of the smallest states, but other states are considering passing similar measures. We may not be too far off from a more cohesive, national version of digital inheritance.