This chapter addresses the appropriate treatment of a person's digital life when the account holder can no longer manage it. As the Internet becomes an increasingly important presence in our daily lives, the law has a significant role to play in determining the management of digital assets upon the account holder's incapacity or death. In the past, people put hard copies of photos in albums, listened to record albums, and paid bills with a stamped envelope. Today, most people use the Internet to store photos, listen to music, and pay bills. Yet few people have considered how to dispose of their digital assets.
This chapter explores the legal issues for trusts, estates, conservatorships, and powers of attorney. It addresses the importance of fiduciaries being able to manage an account holder's digital assets, and the obstacles under federal and state law to a fiduciary assuming that role. Finally, it shows how the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act provides a solution to ensure effectuation of the account holder's intent.
GW Paper Series
GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2015-18; GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2015-18
Cahn, Naomi and Kunz, Christina L. and Brown Walsh, Suzanne, Digital Assets and Fiduciaries (2016). RESEARCH HANDBOOK ON ELECTRONIC COMMERCE LAW, John A. Rothchild, ed., Edward Elger, 2016; GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2015-18; GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2015-18. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2603398