Legislation would allow Pennsylvanians to transfer digital property by will, trust or power-of-attorney
The State Senate Judiciary Committee today approved Senate Bill 320, authored by Senator Tom Killion, to allow Pennsylvanians to dispose of digital assets in the same manner as tangible property.
“My legislation aligns Pennsylvania’s laws with 21st century realties,” said Killion. “Such a substantial part of our lives exists in the digital world. It is important the laws provide people a mechanism to leave those assets to trusted friends and family upon their passing. I am grateful to the Judiciary Committee and Chair Lisa Baker for favorable consideration of this bill.”
Killion’s bill would allow music, books, videos, photos and documents stored by tech giants such as Apple and Google to be transferred to beneficiaries once an individual dies. This would be done the same way tangible property is transferred: by providing instructions in a will, trust or power-of-attorney.
Currently, rules regarding the disposition of digital assets are dictated by the Terms-of-Service set by digital platforms. When an account holder dies or otherwise loses the ability to manage their own digital assets, family or an estate executor can often be stymied in their efforts to gain access to the online accounts of the deceased.
Called the Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, Killion’s bill is similar to ones passed in 46 states according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The legislation would allow a fiduciary to access digital property from cloud storage companies by sending a certified document proving their authority to manage these electronic assets.
Several stakeholder groups worked with Killion to draft the legislation, including Amazon, Apple, Google, the Pennsylvania Bankers Association and the Pennsylvania Bar Association.
“The Pennsylvania Bar Association supports SB320 as it will permit agents and other fiduciaries to access the digital assets of decedents or incapacitated individuals,” said Anne N. John, President of the Pennsylvania Bar Association. “We thank the Senate Judiciary Committee for their approval of this important legislation.”
“The countless digital pictures of my wife, daughters and grandkids are among my most cherished possessions,” noted Killion. “I can’t imagine my family not being able to gain access to them simply because our estate laws haven’t kept pace with technology. My bill will ensure that Pennsylvanians can pass along their photos, books and music – and provide access to banking and investment accounts – to their loved ones after their passing.”