PA Senate Unanimously Advanced Legislation on
Accessing a Deceased Person’s Digital Assets

Email accounts. Social media. Photo archives. Cloud accounts. These are all examples of digital assets and you have more digital assets than you realize.

But what happens to those assets when a person dies? Who has control? Who can access them?

Typically, the terms-of-service for each individual website would determine who has ownership and access to a deceased person’s website accounts and digital assets, and whether they can be transferred, deleted or preserved.

On October 28th, 2019, the Pennsylvania Senate unanimously advanced Senate Bill 320, authored by Senator Tom Killion, which would grant Pennsylvanians the ability to plan for and manage the disposition of their digital assets in the same way they can transfer their personal physical property, by providing instructions in a will, trust or power of attorney.

This proposed legislation would codify the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Acccess to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA), which has been adopted in 46 other states.

Instead of being lost forever to the digital “cloud,” a deceased individual’s digitally stored items, such as books, music, videos, photos and documents, can be transferred to his or her beneficiaries.

If a deceased person failed to plan for the management and disposition of their digital assets, the court-appointed fiduciary, such as an Executor, who manages that person’s tangible assets will have that same ability to manage the deceased person’s digital assets by submitting a document to the custodian which certifies that person’s authority to manage those digital assets.

That bill is not law yet, but the attorneys at UTBF will continue to monitor this legislation as well as other state and federal bills and regulations impacting estate planning and administration. If you haven’t updated your wills and trusts and you have digital assets that you wish to preserve, then an estate planning update may be in order.

Contact David Frees and Douglas Kaune today at (610) 933–8069 for information regarding your estate planning and how you can ensure you don’t lose your digital assets forever in the digital “cloud.”

David Frees represents thousands of clients in Chester County, Montgomery County, Delaware County, Philadelphia County and Lancaster County and many clients from communities such as, Wayne, Berwyn, Devon, Paoli, Exton, Phoenixville, West Chester, Malvern, Chester Springs, Ardmore, Villanova, Rosemont, Newtown Square, Gladwyne, and surrounding areas.

David M. Frees, III
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