What Happens to My Digital Assets on Death or Incapacity?

February 6, 2019

Authored by: Stacie J. Rottenstreich and Karin Barkhorn

 

A recent New York case, Estate of Swezey (NYLJ, 1/17/19 at pp. 23, col. 3) highlights the confusion in the laws of many states regarding the administration and distribution of digital assets at a decedent’s death.  In this case, decedent’s executor asked Apple to turn over decedent’s photographs stored in his iTunes and iCloud account.  No provision in decedent’s Will specifically authorized the executor to access decedent’s digital account.  The Court relied on the relatively new section 13-A in the New York Estates, Powers and Trusts Law (“EPTL”), Administration of Digital Assets which provides for different procedures for the disclosure of electronic communications, in contrast to the digital assets.  To disclose electronic communication specific user consent is required or a specific court order for an identifiable reason.  Other digital assets, such as