Portland is widely recognized as one of the most innovative cities in the US, and a new law reflects that culture. With the signature of Governor Kate Brown, Oregon has enacted Senate Bill 1554, which grants legal access to digital assets to a person named in an estate plan as a designated fiduciary. This was reported in "Governor signs new law which protects digital assets" from kitv.com.
In order to gain this access, an individual must affirmatively state in his or her estate planning documents that they want a fiduciary to have online access. If not, it defaults to the terms of service agreements, which have been the source of great distress to many individuals and families.
For example, one mother who lost her son 10 years ago after a motorcycle accident wanted to access his Facebook account as a tribute to him. "I wanted to keep it up and running for at least a year," Karen Williams said. "So [friends and family] can come back to it and it could be there for the first year anniversary."
Williams said Facebook would not permit her to keep her son's page. Even worse, the company deleted the page. She said the problem was that there wasn't anyone to oversee it and—at that point in time—there were no options to allow someone to access an account or delete it.
While Facebook does have a policy for dealing with this, that’s only if a user has allowed it. If you have a Facebook account, you can go into your user settings and designate a Legacy Contact. Once this person alerts Facebook to the death of the user, they memorialize the page and the Legacy Contact may then write a post to display at the top of the page, such as an announcement about a memorial service. They may also respond to new friend requests and update the profile picture and cover photo. Take a look at our post on the topic for more information.
Other accounts may be more complicated and may or may not have policies in place to deal with the death of an account owner. And if they don’t, it can certainly complicate an otherwise well planned out estate. It’s always best to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure your wishes for any digital accounts or assets are honored.
It will be interesting to see if this new law encourages people who might otherwise procrastinate in preparing an estate plan to become more proactive. To enjoy the benefits of the new law, which goes into effect on January 1, 2017, the designation must be in a Power of Attorney agreement or in estate planning documents.
To learn more about the importance of creating your estate plan, explore our website and contact us to schedule your consultation today!
Reference: kitv.com (March 8, 2016) "Governor signs new law which protects digital assets"