New Law Allows Planning to Grant Access to Digital Accounts

The time is upon us where some may never relate to the feelings associated with digging through an old box of photographs. That box of photos has become files on Facebook and Instagram. Those who don’t post every photo on social media may store those photos on web-based backup systems. The old hand-written letters we may find after a loved one passes are now represented by emails in electronic account. Diaries have turned into tweets or Facebook posts.

How can a family that can’t hold a photograph or letter in their hand accesses important digital assets when a loved one becomes disabled or dies? A new law becomes effective on June 27, 2016, allowing someone to plan for the passing of their emails, social media accounts, and other digital assets. The Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (PA 59 of 2016; MCL 700.1001 et al) contemplates designation through either an online tool or estate planning documents (will, trust, power of attorney) the name of the person(s) that may access their assets and the scope of the assets to be accessed.

The enactment of this law requires planning ahead just like traditional estate planning. We must think about what digital assets we would want accessed after our death. Unlike social media postings, emails can be very private. This law gives us the ability to think about whether our emails should be accessed upon our disability or death and ensure the outcome of such disclosure or non-disclosure. This law allows us to let our families know what we want them to have access to. With an appropriate designation, it will be easier for family members to access data on social media accounts. Data that may help them preserve precious memories of someone who has passed.

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