There are many laws governing how a person’s estate can be divided and taken care of when he or she passes away, but there still aren’t many laws on the books governing a digital estate. The very existence of such an estate is relatively new, but it grows more important each day, as the digital age progresses.
Common concerns with digital estates are linked to privacy. For example, if someone is given access to email accounts and social media accounts, what information is he or she allowed to access? Not only are there concerns about the information the person who passed away left behind, but those with whom that person communicated could also feel like their privacy was violated.
For example, if someone was having a secret relationship with another person that was never made public, but the two did communicate using Facebook messages, would that person’s privacy be violated if the person administering the estate read the messages and learned of the relationship?
Some proposals have tried to deal with these issues, such as the Privacy Expectations Afterlife and Choices Act and the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act. While both have been considered and come close to passing into law—the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act was at one point considered the front-runner to establish laws all over the United States—none have officially been passed.
As such, it is very important for people in California to consider their digital estate and privacy issues when creating an estate plan. They must understand their legal rights and what rights are passed on to estate administrators.
Source: Wealth Management, “Administration of Trusts And Estates in the Digital Age,” Jena L. Levin and John T. Brooks, accessed Feb. 05, 2016