Web Exclusive: New law on inheriting online accounts

Web Exclusive: New law on inheriting online accounts

(CNN) - When someone dies, often their online identity dies as well. A new law in one state, however, is looking to change that.  Think about all of the online footprints and accounts you've made.

The governor of Delaware says the goal of the new law is to "match the reality of how people live in the 21st century."  The law now allows executors of an estate access to the digital assets of the person who passed away.  This includes email accounts, social media accounts, health records, and cloud storage.

Right now, there are companies-- like google that offer users the option of assigning a beneficiary.  If an account remains inactive for a certain amount of time, the beneficiary is contacted by google and given the ability to login to the gmail account of the deceased so they can access to important emails, shut down the account, or even set an auto-reply message to friends.  Twitter also allows users to assign a beneficiary, but a death certificate must be presented before the account can be shut down.

In any case, without an assigned beneficiary, heirs can be in for a long, and often unsuccessful, battle to gain account access.  If more states follow Delaware's lead, family members will no longer have to deal with the corporate red tape following the death of a loved one.  


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