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What Happens to Digital Assets After Death in Pennsylvania?

Mac-glassesMany states have adopted a set of rules for access to digital assets belonging to the deceased, like social media photos and email accounts. However, Pennsylvania has yet to do so. A state senator is trying to bring the state’s laws up to date.

Pennsylvania State Senator Tom Killion has sponsored legislation that would change the state’s rules for post-mortem digital asset management, reports in a recent article “Legislators setting rules on who gets digital photos, emails after death.” “Currently, if you pass away, you can leave your house, your car, your valuables, your savings to your children or whoever you want to decide to leave it to via will or trust, but you can’t do that in Pennsylvania with your digital assets,” he said.

“Think about all of those apps that you have on your phone all of those assets contain your personal information,” said Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill, who supports the legislation.

Killion’s legislation proposes the transfer of all digital assets to beneficiaries, in the same way physical assets are; by will, trust, or power-of-attorney.

“We all have lots of stuff in the cloud right now — family photos, maybe I’ve started writing a book that I haven’t finished yet, you can go on and on and on,” Killion said. “This is basically our laws catching up to what’s going on in our world.”

The state senator commented that the National Conference of State Legislatures reports 46 states have similar legislation. He says without these laws, family members are frequently in battle against large media companies to fight for ownership of that data.

Killion also remarked that the state bar association was working for some time to move this law forward.

It was unanimously passed by the state Senate and referred to the House Judiciary Committee in October.

Killion would like to see the bill become law before the end of this session.

Planning for digital assets to be properly managed after the owner dies, is an important missing part of many estate plans.

Reference: (November 28, 2019) “Legislators setting rules on who gets digital photos, emails after death”