Delaware Bill takes up issue of Digital Assets - Should PA and NJ legislators follow?

The Delaware General Assembly is an issue of estate planning as it relates to digital applications. The bill, introduced by Rep. Darryl Scott (D-Dover), would require companies like Google to hand over control of users accounts to a trusted person outlined in their will. Companies would be required to give estate executors access to accounts within 30 days of a request or face possible civil penalties.

This bill came about after Scott spoke with a constituent’s mother who tried to retrieve her husband’s email account after his death, but due to the provider’s legal terms of service, the company simply deactivated the address. Privacy concerns regarding digital assets are a real and valid issue, but Scott believes that the bill's safeguards will address them. “They’re concerned about user privacy as well and I have that concern,” said Scott. “People can designate assets that they don’t want to be included as part of their estate.” He notes that while an executor of your estate might have access to your stock portfolio or bank account, they can’t necessarily touch them. The same would apply with digital assets under his proposal.

“The financial statement would say that you have these assets in your portfolio, but your will would designate the sort of disbursement of those assets. So again, [it’s] providing your guardian, your trustee, the executor of your estate access to the information to effectively manage your estate upon your death,” said Scott.

The bill has been in the works for more than three years and has backing from the Delaware Bar Association.

If approved, it would be the first comprehensive law of its kind. Seven other states grant different levels of access. Neither Pennsylvania nor New Jersey have laws that address this issue.

If you would like to discuss the how a will, trust or estate plan can address digital assets in Montgomery, Philadelphia, or Delaware Counties, please contact us.