SACRAMENTO, CA – Assembly Bill 691, authored by Majority Leader Ian Calderon (D-Whittier) which authorizes and provides guidelines for a deceased individual’s personal representative to access and manage their digital assets and electronic communications, was signed into law today by Governor Brown.
“In a digital world, much of our most valuable information is stored online,” stated Majority Leader Calderon. “Whether it’s via social media or email, the digital assets we “own” are today’s version of the photo albums, videos and hand-written journals of yesterday. The new method of storing information digitally has also raised questions about how we treat our personal information after we die.”
As Californians increasingly use online services to produce and store information, it is important to consider what happens to their stored online communications after they are deceased. Currently, there is no statute in place that protects the private information of the newly deceased. Families are left responsible trying to figure out how to access their loved ones’ information, often times having to go to court, causing unnecessary financial and emotional burdens.
AB 691 would establish the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA) and authorize a decedent’s personal representative or trustee (fiduciary) to access and manage digital assets and electronic communications. Through this bill, an individual may use the following methods to provide direction regarding the disclosure of their assets upon death:
- A person may use a website’s online tool.
- If an online tool is not provided or used, a person may give direction in a will, trust, power of attorney or other record.
- In the absence of the first two, a website’s terms of service would determine how to disclose information.
“AB 691 ensures that friends and family of the deceased have a process through which they can gain access to important information about their loved ones during a time that is already painful and difficult,” stated Majority Leader Calderon. “This bill ensures that the decedent’s digital estate is administered properly while still protecting their privacy.”
Many other states have enacted similar statutes to protect a decedent’s online stored communications. AB 691 follows the Uniformed Law Commission’s model and is consistent with legislation enacted in eleven other states, including Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Michigan, Florida, Tennessee, Indiana, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Idaho.
AB 691 received strong bipartisan support in the Assembly and Senate. The measure was supported by TechNet, Internet Association, AOL, California Bankers Association, California Chamber of Commerce, CompTIA, Facebook, Google, Match.com, State Privacy and Security Coalition, Inc., and Yahoo.
Contact: Lerna Shirinian, (562) 692-5858
Majority Leader Ian C. Calderon was elected in November 2012 to represent California's 57th Assembly District, which includes the cities of Industry, La Habra Heights, La Mirada, La Puente, Norwalk, Santa Fe Springs, South El Monte, Whittier and the unincorporated communities of Avocado Heights, Bassett, East La Mirada, East Whittier, Los Nietos-West Whittier, South San Jose Hills, South Whittier, and Hacienda Heights.