New Illinois Bill Addresses Digital Assets in Estate Planning

Illinois bill addresses digital assets, digital assets, Illinois Estate Planning LawyerA new bill has been introduced to the Illinois General Assembly that addresses what should be done with personal online accounts when a person passes away.

A deceased person's social media accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter, email, as well as other online accounts, would all be considered physical assets and become part of a person's estate.

Senate Bill 1376 would allow the court to appoint a trustee who would then have access to the accounts in order to help settle a person's affairs. The bill currently has bipartisan support among Illinois lawmakers; however, there is opposition to the bill coming from tech companies who claim that the bill raises privacy issues.

Representatives from both Facebook and Yahoo have come out in opposition of the bill, saying it would actually ignore the wishes of a deceased person, as well as negate years of settled case law. The companies also claim that the bill would override options and tools they have developed and put in place to help ensure users accounts are protected.

Lawmakers who drafted the bill disagree. They say the bill is similar to current law regarding how physical assets are handled, whereby the court appoints someone to inventory and document a person's possessions, as well settle the person's estate. One lawmaker compared the online account issue as similar to a deceased person owning a safe deposit box located at a bank. The person appointed by the court is allowed to gain access to that box and make arrangements for that property.

Lawmakers also say that in today's digital world, with more and more people going "paperless," it is becoming increasingly difficult to settle a person's estate without having access to those online accounts when they have passed away without leaving instructions.

Two advocacy groups have expressed concern over the possibilities of unintended abuses of what the bill would allow. The Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence and The Trevor Project, an advocacy group for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, are both working with lawmakers to help fine-tune the wording of the bill to ensure that the bill’s actual intentions are not abused.

Issues such as online accounts and digital assets can be addressed when a person draws up his or her estate plans. If you are considering drawing up a new estate plan, or would like to update the plans you currently have in place, please contact an experienced DuPage County estate planning attorney today to discuss your options and what will work best for you and your family.