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What is a Digital Estate?

As technology advances rapidly, people's digital assets become more and more important. Paying bills and taxes, storing important documents as well as media files, communicating with friends and loved ones are some of the things that people do online. Contact information for friends and family is no longer stored in a black book, but on a "cloud" somewhere. So what happens when you die? How is your executor going to even know what bills have to be paid or how to contact your friends?

State legislatures have been slowly adapting to "digital afterlife." Delaware recently passed legislation giving court appointed executors broad power to access and manage digital accounts of the deceased. Other states have passed legislation giving limited power to executors, such as to access only email. So what about Oregon? The Oregon Senate introduced a Bill (SB 54) in 2013 that would, like Delaware, give an executor "access and control of digital assets and digital accounts of the decedent." As of the date of this blog posting, SB 54 has not yet passed the senate.

Some companies have taken things into their own hands. For example, Google recently created an option where the Google account holder can authorize a third party to access any or all of the Google account after the account has been inactive for a predetermined time. For more information, click here.

Facebook has implemented an option to their software called "Legacy Contact", which allows the Facebook user the option to give a particular person, upon your death, the authority to login to your Facebook account and either leave a legacy page, or delete your entire account. For more information, click here.

Check back for further updates as to Oregon law on digital assets and for major internet companies changing their digital afterlife policies.

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