What Happens to Digital Assets in Connecticut

In Connecticut, your executor has control over your email, but not any other digital assets.

In Connecticut, after you die, your executor has the authority to access your email but not any other types of digital assets. Access to email may help your executor wrap up your estate, but it could also allow your executor to get into accounts that you might prefer to keep private. And because Connecticut doesn’t grant an executor power over any other type of digital asset, your executor may not be able to access other accounts or files that would be vital to paying bills, cancelling subscriptions, or conducting business on your behalf.

Connecticut is also considering adopting the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (UFADAA), which grants executors as much authority over digital assets as they have over traditional assets. This would give your executor even more power to access your online accounts and digital files after your death.

What Are Digital Assets?

“Digital assets” are any digital record that you own or have control over. This includes email accounts, websites, social media accounts, financial accounts, digital files (music, photos, movies), apps, frequent flyer rewards, or any other online or digital account or file. Your access to these accounts or files is usually limited by the “terms of service” that you agree to when creating an account or buying or licensing a product online.

Learn more about What Are Digital Assets?

What Will Happen to My Digital Assets After I Die?

In Connecticut, what happens to your digital assets depends on whether you’ve made a plan. At this time, Connecticut law gives your executor authority only over your email (Conn. Gen Stat. Ann . § 45a-334a.) He or she will not have the authority to request access to any other digital assets. So unless you leave a list of your accounts, instructions about how to access them, and guidance about what to do with them, most of your digital assets will continue to exist, but nobody will be able to access, modify, or delete them. Most accounts and files will just continue untouched until the company that manages them terminates the account, at which point all data will be lost.

This inability to get into most of your accounts and files is disconcerting because your executor may need to access them to 1) officially wrap up your affairs, and 2) follow your wishes.

Read more about Why Your Executor Needs Access to Your Digital Assets.

A New Law Proposed: UFADAA

In 2015 SB 979, Connecticut lawmakers have proposed adopting the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (UFADAA). This law gives executors very broad authority to access, control, and manage a deceased person’s digital assets – including the power to demand access to accounts and files from the companies that control them.

Of course, as with every aspect of the job, an executor must act only in the best interest of the estate and may access digital assets only to wrap up the deceased person’s affairs. So under UFADAA, while your executor may be able to get into your social media account, he or she may not post as you or gratuitously read your personal messages.

If UFADAA becomes law and you are worried that your executor will have too much access to your digital accounts or files, you can make a plan to keep certain assets private. See “Limiting Access Your Accounts,” below.

Learn more about the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (UFADAA).

Leaving Instructions About Your Digital Assets

The best way to control what happens to your digital assets after you die is to very clearly provide instructions for your executor. Leave a list of your accounts with usernames and passwords and explain what you want done with each one. You can leave this information in a letter to be found after you die. Just keep the letter in a secure place, make sure that your executor knows where to find it, and remember to keep it up to date.

Leaving instructions is a good idea even if Connecticut passes UFADAA. Although UFADAA does allow your executor to ask companies for access to your accounts, the process for doing so will be long and trying – in part because most companies are likely to resist. It will be much less burdensome for your executor if you simply leave a list of access information and instructions. That way, he or she can just go into the accounts and do the job without having to either guess about what you want or ask each company for permission.

Limiting Access Your Digital Assets

Maybe you don’t want your executor going into your accounts after you die. That certainly seems like a reasonable request – if the accounts and files are private in life, shouldn’t they also be private in death?

To limit your executor’s access to your digital assets, you could leave clear instructions about which assets will be useful for wrapping up your affairs, and which should remain untouched. For example, in a letter to your executor you could write something like this:

  • I’m providing the username and password for my main email address because you may need to get into that account to get information about my finances. I do have other email accounts, but I do not want you to access those for any reason. They are private, and do not contain anything that will help you wrap up my estate.

This won’t work for everyone, and you probably have a gut feeling about whether or not your executor would follow your instructions.

When asking for privacy isn’t enough, you may be able to take steps to hide the assets that you don’t want to share. For example, if you don’t want your executor to access a journal you keep on your personal computer, you can protect it with a strong password that you don’t share. For digital assets hosted by a third party, you could reduce evidence of an account by using only public computers to access it. This suggestion to hide your private digital information has nothing to do with the law, it just reflects that you can take some practical steps to keep your executor from knowing about or accessing some digital assets.

Finally, you could see a lawyer to discuss creating a legal protection for your private digital assets. An attorney may be able to craft a provision for your will that explicitly prohibits your executor from accessing certain assets. Or the attorney could help you set up a trust that appoints a trusted person to guard the assets on your behalf.

Learn more about Digital Assets.

(Connecticut -- Existing law, UFADAA Proposed)

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