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Delaware has moved into the digital rights vanguard by passing a law granting families the right to control a loved one's digital assets after his or her death.
According to Ars Technica, Delaware is the first U.S. state to accomplish this kind of legislation, although some states (like Idaho and Nevada) have more limited versions of digital rights for heirs. Speaking to the law's strengths, a spokeswoman for the Delaware governor's office noted that regardless of the location of the digital account provider (e.g., Twitter, which is based in San Francisco), if a will is governed by Delaware law, the executor would have access to those accounts.
Several other states have laws dealing with email or certain social networking assets after death, but they lack a comprehensive grasp of the scope of a modern person's so-called "digital estate." In addition, each social media service has its own policy on what happens to a user's account after death, leaving some to try to place these accounts in a trust.
Delaware's HB 345, the Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets and Digital Accounts Act, attempts to patch these gaps in law and policy by providing a state sanctioned procedure for requesting and gaining access to a dead loved one's accounts.
The law is set to take effect on January 1, 2015.