We touched previously in this space on talk that the Florida Legislature may consider a law giving people more control over who can access their online assets when they die or become incapacitated. That possibility has been given more concrete form in a bill introduced to the legislature by State Senator Dorothy Hukill. While the bill still must get through committee hearings before being presented to the entire chamber, it is a step forward in the process of clarifying how digital assets should be handled by personal representatives and guardians.
Under the proposed law an individual could appoint a personal representative or a guardian who would be given authority over the decedent’s or ward’s digital assets, such as e-mails, social media accounts, text messages, and digitally stored documents. According to the bill’s sponsor, right now there is confusion on the part of both individuals and digital companies as to how privacy protections interact with probate law when a person dies or is incapacitated. The law aims to make this more clear.
While some worry about privacy concerns when giving people access to other individuals’ accounts, State Senator Hukill points out that information that is privileged will remain so. For example, personal representatives cannot go through a deceased doctor’s medical files on patients, regardless of whether they are stored digitally or physically in hard copy, such as in a storage locker or filing cabinet.
With people’s online lives becoming more complex as each year passes, these issues are likely to become more and more prevalent. If you would like information about how to protect digital probate assets in the event of death or incapacity, you may wish to contact an experienced Florida estate planning attorney.
Source: secureidnews.com, “Florida considers law to protect digital assets after death,” Gina Jordan, Feb. 9, 2015