In the hours leading up to the legislature’s constitutional adjournment deadline of midnight on May 4, the Connecticut State Senate passed House Bill 5606, the “Connecticut Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act.” The bill, passing unanimously on consent calendar, extends a fiduciary’s existing authority over a represented person’s assets to include such person’s digital assets. Section 3 of the bill defines a fiduciary as: (1) executor or administrator of a deceased person’s estate; (2) court-appointed conservator of a protected person’s estate; (3) agent appointed under power of attorney; and (4) trustee.
The bill establishes the processes a fiduciary must follow to gain access to a represented person’s digital assets, including items such as email, digital photos, electronic documents, music and social media accounts. Specifically, a fiduciary must send a written request to the custodian along with: (1) a certified copy of the document granting fiduciary authority, such as a letter of appointment, court order, or certification of trust; and (2) certain other information the custodian requests, such as account verification. A custodian must generally comply with a request within 60 days and is immune from any liability for an act or omission done in good faith compliance.
In addition, users of the online tool, may direct a custodian to allow or limit access to a designated person. The “online tool” is defined as an electronic service provided by a custodian that allows a user, in an agreement separate and distinct from a general service agreement, to provide directions for disclosure or nondisclosure of digital assets to a third person, including a fiduciary. A direction regarding disclosure through an online tool overrides a contrary direction in a will, trust, power of attorney, or other record if the online tool allows the user to modify or delete the direction at all times.
House Bill 5606 replaces the narrow provisions under current law that require email service providers to give estate executors and administrators access to, or copies of, the email account of a decedent domiciled in Connecticut when he or she died.
The bill, effective October 1, 2016, now awaits Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s signature.