Illinois enacts law to give fiduciaries access to decedent’s online accounts

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On August 12, 2016, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law an Act, effective immediately, which gives Illinois fiduciaries (a person who has the power and obligation to act for another) easier access to a decedent’s or disabled adult’s online accounts. This new law, entitled the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, specifies those individuals who are authorized to access the so-called “digital assets” of individuals who have either died or become legally incapacitated. “Digital assets” are defined as a person’s right or interest in electronic records, email accounts, online banking or investment accounts, social media accounts such as Facebook, LinkedIn or other such sites, and photographs, documents or other media stored in the cloud.

As more and more individuals organize and maintain their lives online, rather than in paper format, it has become increasingly important for families and heirs or fiduciaries to gain access to a loved one’s digital assets after their death or incapacity. This law will undoubtedly have a huge impact on all of us, as we will now need to consider who to entrust with access to our digital assets, and which digital assets we want those persons to see. Moreover, it will be important to consider revising virtually every estate planning document we may already have in place, such as wills, powers of attorney and trusts or to have such documents executed if not already in place in order to take any digital assets into consideration.