By Kathy Ossian, Ossian Law P.C.
The average person nowadays owns thousands of dollars in “digital assets” in social media and other online accounts. A new law takes effect June 27, 2016 to allow fiduciaries in Michigan to access a decedent’s or incapacitated person’s digital assets. The “Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act” is one of a handful of such state laws throughout the country.Without the fiduciary’s knowledge of the existence of a deceased or incapacitated person’s digital assets, they could end up falling through the cracks. Michigan’s new law takes the subject to the next level, covering electronic communications and allowing individuals to use an online tool to manage digital assets.
At first glance, the law may only seem relevant to estate planning and administration. Organizations whose employees use social media or other digital accounts for business purposes should also be aware of the law and the impact it may have on social media policies and practices.
The intent of the law is to cover an individual’s personal digital assets, as it doesn’t apply to “digital assets of an employer used by employees in the ordinary course of business.” Keeping an organization’s digital assets, such as social media accounts, separate from employee’s personal accounts and under the control of the organization becomes even more important to avoid disputes over the status of accounts.