CBA Helps Bring Law into the Digital Age
Sunday, May 15, 2016
Posted by: Connecticut Bar Association
With the help of the Estates and Probate Section, Connecticut citizens have the ability to plan for disposition of their digital assets thanks to the passing of House Bill 5606, An Act Concerning the Connecticut Revised Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act.
Digital assets are things like email, digital photos, electronic documents, music, movies, games, social media accounts, and virtual currency such as Bitcoin. They can be extremely valuable—domain names have sold for more than $35 million. The bill gives state residents the power to plan for the management and disposition of their digital assets the same as their tangible property: by providing instructions in a will, trust, or power of attorney, or by using simple online planning tools.
At a public hearing, section executive committee member and Uniform Law Commissioner, Suzanne Brown Walsh, testified that “RB 5606 is necessary because the law has not kept pace with technological advances in the Internet age.” She went on to say that “while Connecticut citizens have complete control over what happens to their tangible and intangible private property when they die or lose their legal capacity that is not always the case for their digital assets. HB5606 solves that problem.”
When internet users open an account or subscribe to a service and blindly click the "terms-of-service agreement," they often unwittingly forfeit the right of their agents, executors, and other fiduciaries to access their digital accounts during periods of incapacity and after death.
“The issue of fiduciary access to a consumer's account should be determined by the consumer, not by unread terms-of-service agreements that offer the consumer no choice,” said Estates and Probate Section executive committee member Mark W. Dost. “The revised Uniform Act remedies the problem, by enabling individuals to give their fiduciaries access to their digital assets. It also respects users' privacy rights, by enabling individuals to prohibit access to some digital assets, including electronic communications such as email. The act puts the consumer in charge.”
The revised Uniform Act was adopted by the Uniform Law Commission in 2015, and already four states—Florida, Tennessee, Wyoming, and Oregon—have enacted the legislation. The Uniform Act has been introduced in 22 other states this year, underscoring its importance and the urgency of its passage. The Act complies with federal law. And the Act, as revised, has received the endorsement of AARP, Google, and Facebook.
Click here to view testimony from the March 18, 2016 meeting of the Judiciary Committee featuring Estates and Probate Section executive committee members Mark W. Dost of Tinley Reehan & Dost LLP and Suzanne Brown Walsh of Murtha Cullina LLP.