When the first law on the books was passed earlier this summer on digital access and who inherits our digital assets, many began wondering where New Hampshire is with its own law. This week, we take a look at neighboring Delaware’s passage of Digital Access and Digital Accounts Act and what we can expect from our own state government.
A Solid Law
On August 12, Delaware Governor Jack A. Markell signed his state’s version of the Digital Access and Digital Accounts Act. It marked the first law in the U.S. that provides a complete process over who governs the access to one’s digital assets after death. This includes digital assets such as social media and email accounts, along with music he’s purchased, videos, software licenses and more. Not only that, but the law is applicable for those who are still living, though incapacitated. The new law allows a Delaware resident’s digital assets to become part of his overall estate after death, which will then open access to heirs, just as the physical property.
It’s the broad range of how digital assets are defined that provides insight to the importance of these types of laws. They include:
- Social Media
- Health Care and Insurance Records
- Computer Codes and Programs
- Software and Applicable Licenses
This also includes any and all user names and passwords associated with those assets. The one caveat is any digital accounts belonging to an employer is not included in this law, even if the account was used on a daily basis. If an employer has any of these assets or any required user names and passwords to those assets (and many of us keep that kind of information stored either on our work computers or in our offices), it must give the legal fiduciary for the deceased’s estate the information along with anything else that might be needed to gain access to those digital assets.
NH Digital Access and Digital Accounts Law
Sounds like a solid law, yes? But the question is: where is New Hampshire in its own version of a similar law?
The proposed law introduced in January 2013, HB 116, is described as an “act relative to the powers of the executor nor administrator to take control of a decedent’s social networking websites.” To date, it remains a bill and as it’s currently written, though it does not address other digital assets such as music, photos, software licenses, etc. There’s nothing pending, but ideally, the importance of such a law will make it a high priority for lawmakers.
It doesn’t mean you have no options; in fact, more Americans are taking advantage of the protections that are in place to protect their online assets. To learn more about those options, contact our offices today.