“Digital Assets” Bill Passed by the Florida Senate
This past week, the Florida Senate passed legislation (SB 494) protecting a person’s “digital assets” after death. The bill was unanimously okayed by Florida senators with a 36-0 vote and will now be sent to the Florida House. A similar bill was proposed last year, but did not pass after internet service providers stated it would violate a user’s privacy. Specific revisions were made to the legislation including the requirement of people to specifically leave behind instructions for their digital assets. This can be done either through their will or in an online agreement handing over control to a custodian after their death.
The bill was sponsored by State Senator Dorothy Hukill (R) of Port Orange. SB 494’s House companion (HB747) has already cleared all of its committees of reference and has been placed on the calendar to be voted on by the House. Eight other states have passed similar bills.
The language of the bill explicitly states: “Digital Assets; Citing this act as the “Florida Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act”; authorizing a user to use an online tool to allow a custodian to disclose to a designated recipient or to prohibit a custodian from disclosing digital assets under certain circumstances; providing procedures for the disclosure of digital assets; authorizing the court to grant a guardian the right to access a ward’s digital assets under certain circumstances; imposing fiduciary duties, etc.”
SB 494 will allow people to choose who will be in charge of their “digital estate.” The named manager of the estate could be anyone a person selects, including friends, attorneys, and family members. The named estate manager will have access and control over the deceased’s financial accounts, social media accounts, and almost any other online profiles with information in the deceased’s name. This could include emails, text messages, documents stored in the cloud, electronic bank/credit statements, online photos, etc.
The passage of the Digital Assets Bill brings a person’s digital estate into the fold of traditional estate planning, and it should be dealt with the same way as valuable property and assets are handled. The legislation will allow people to state exactly what the custodians of their online accounts are able to do with their information, and help to protect their privacy after death.
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