Most people live a large part of their lives on their online social media accounts. They may have also gone almost completely paperless, no longer receiving bank statement or bills by mail. What happens if a person becomes incapacitated and someone needs access to their online information? Who can access, or delete, that information if someone dies?
How It Helps
The Michigan Legislature recently answered those questions by enacting the Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, which takes effect on June 27th of this year. The law allows a person with a power of attorney, or a personal representative or trustee, to access information when someone with an online account becomes incapacitated or dies. The law also outlines what can be done with the information.
The Fine Print
While the law fills a void in probate law, there are still some gaps:
- If the person who has the account has filled out an online form about the use or disclosure of his account, then that overrides the power he gave someone in his will, trust or power of attorney.
- The person trying to get the information must provide a number of documents in order to gain access to the account. He must provide the "unique subscriber or account identifier" to identify the account (which may be hard to obtain, especially if the account holder has died). The custodian of the account can also require a COURT finding that the disclosure of electronic communication is "reasonably necessary for administration of the estate."
How You Can Maintain Control
This would require a court to weigh your right to privacy (even in death) against your survivor's need for information to wrap up your estate. If you are not really a fan of someone seeing your PRIVATE accounts, (even after your death) then the law allows you to prohibit any disclosure or to specify what can and can't be released from your digital assets.