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Tuesday, 18 October 2016 16:29

CA Passes 2017 Law on Disposition of Digital Assets

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California AB 691 was recently signed into law, which sets forth default rules governing the disposition and probate of digital assets to a surviving fiduciary or beneficiary. In enacting this legislation, California joins 19 other states, including Florida, in adopting of the Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act. The term digital assets include a person's social media accounts, websites, domains, email accounts, blogs, as well as other accounts and digital content related thereto. This law will go in effect January 1, 2017, and establishes a three step hierarchical test for determining who may access a decedent's digital assets.

First, the decedent's express instructions within a particular online platform or service provider shall take priority. That is, if a decedent provided a provide a "legacy contact" through account settings or preferences, such as in Facebook or Instagram, that named person shall inhereit the account.

Second, if the decedent did not make a designation within a service provider, or if the service provider does not provide for a designation option, the decedent's will shall govern. In this case, services such as Twitter or GoDaddy may require providing documentation, such as a death certification along with estate administrator papers along with photo identifications, in order to faciliate a transfer of ownership and access.

Third, if the decedent's will is silent on disposition, the service provider's term of service shall govern.

The full text of the bill can be found at

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Tony Guo

As a specialized technology counsel, Tony supports his clients in the high tech, creative, and online industries. His primary areas of practice include intellectual property protection, Internet law, and startups. Tony is a USPTO registered patent attorney, as well as a licensed lawyer in California and Florida. He comes from a background involving considerable hardware and software development experience, having worked in both development and IT roles in the tech and finance industries.

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