New Law Clarifies What Happens to Digital Life When One Dies (video)

GallowayCollensTOPsunsetREVISEDNew Law Clarifies What Judy_Palmer30yearsHappens to Digital Life When One Dies (video)

(Crystal A. Proxmire, April 9, 2016)

Huntington Woods, MI – “It used to be that we would have a shoe box full of pictures and people would pass on that shoe box full of pictures to transmit memory of their loved ones or family, good times, that sort of stuff.  And for most of us that shoe box is really sort of going away because everything now is on your phone or on your tablet… Access to that memory is really important,” said Attorney Howard Collens.

Collens, partner in Galloway and Collens PLLC in Huntington Woods, was part of a commission that helped write The Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act that passed with bipartisan support and was signed by Governor Rick Snyder on March 29.

TheSaharaNEW02 law, which will be enacted June 27, outlines how probate courts should decide who has access to the digital assets of a deceased person.

This affects many aspects of online life that people do not always think about when making their end-of-life plans. In addition to Facebook, Twitter, and email there can be iTunes accounts, frequent flier or travel points accounts, photos and files stored in a cloud or on an electronic device, online banking information, blogs and websites, and other items that only exist as data but nonetheless have value.

Up until the law’s enactment, people with specific wishes had to put faith in the court system or in the digital service providers themselves.  “Previously I would draft things and I would have to tell the client, I don’t know if this is going to work because there is no law that governs garden16_angela_fisherthis,” Collens said.  “So now it’s an important thing to include in an estate plan.  So I would encourage people…that if you haven’t reviewed your estate plan recently to do so, because this law is going to be in effect this summer and if your documents don’t address it you really need to do something about it.”

One quirk of the law that Collens is personally not in favor of is the provision that an online form filled out on the website of the service provider takes precedence over an individual’s written will.

“One of my fears is that people will fill out an online tool and forget they’ve done that, do something completely different in their estate plan, and expect that the estate plan will be the one that controls how things are going to go, and that’s not how it’s going to happen,” he said.

“Just like anything in the law there are traps for the unwary and so we need to make sure people are notified as best we can.”

For more details about Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets, check out the oc115’s interview with Collens below.  You can also read the law at

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