Sunday, October 12, 2014

Control over a decedent's information

An article in P.C. World reports that Yahoo is voicing opposition to Delaware's new "Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets and Digital Accounts Act," which gives executors of estates (called "personal representatives" in Michigan) broad access to the online messages and accounts of a decdent. The statute provides: "A fiduciary with authority over digital assets or digital accounts of an account holder under this chapter shall have the same access as the account holder." Yahoo's terms of service instead call for the information to be deleted when it is notified of the death. This approach, it says, is more compatible with the wishes of its users. Unlike money or physical property, Yahoo notes, it is incorrect to assume that the decedent would want his information turned over to his executor.

The article reports that Google and Facebook have generally expressed agreement with Yahoo's stance.

Note, however, that Delaware's new provision would still permit the individual to designate a person other than his executor to carry out any special directives he may have with respect to digital assets, accounts, and information.

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