Delaware has become the first state in the nation to enact a law recognizing social media accounts (such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) as property which can be inherited. The law allows a guardian of a disabled person, an executor under a will, an agent under a power of attorney or a trustee under a trust the right to access and manage social media accounts. The agent will now have the same access and control as when handling assets such as bank accounts, financial and tax documents and medical records. The law also allows the deceased (or disabled person) to prevent his heirs from ever opening or modifying his social media accounts.
Does It Work in Michigan?
The law took effect on January 1, 2015, but is only for Delaware residents at this point. Delaware got the idea for the law from the non-profit group, The Uniform Law Commission, which is a group of lawyers appointed by their respective state legislatures to standardize the country's laws. The Uniform Law Commission has been lobbying states to enact its uniform Digital Assets Act. It is likely that other states will take notice and enact similar laws.
What Else Do I Need to Know?
The new law allows digital assets to be held by a trust. This "digital asset trust" will be a very important part of the estate plan for an individual who has created digital photography, artwork, manuscripts or computer code. The digital asset trust can insure that these assets are managed in a way that benefits the surviving family members and friends selected by the deceased. Even for those social media accounts that do not have any monetary value, there may be an emotional value for the heirs. The law protects that value by allowing the family to control the account as it settles the deceased's affairs.