Legislators setting rules on who gets digital photos, emails after death

Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – State Sen. Tom Killion says most states have rules for who gets someone’s social media photos and email accounts after that person dies, but Pennsylvania is lagging behind.

Killion is looking to help change that and has sponsored legislation to make changes.

“Currently, if you pass away, you can leave your house, your car, your valuables, your savings to your children or whoever you want to decide to leave it to via will or trust, but you can’t do that in Pennsylvania with your digital assets,” he said.

“Think about all of those apps that you have on your phone all of those assets contain your personal information,” said Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill, who supports the legislation.

Killion is proposing a bill that would allow the transfer of all digital assets to beneficiaries the same physical assets are: by will, trust, or power-of-attorney.

“We all have lots of stuff in the cloud right now — family photos, maybe I’ve started writing a book that I haven’t finished yet, you can go on and on and on,” Killion said. “This is basically our laws catching up to what’s going on in our world.”

Killion says the National Conference of State Legislatures reports 46 states have similar legislation. He says without these laws, loved ones are often pitted against big companies to fight for ownership of that data.

“The Bar Association has been working for a while to get this put into law,” Killion said.

The bill was unanimously passed by the state Senate and referred to the House Judiciary Committee last month.

“It’s something that’s really meaningful particularly for younger generations who are much more dependent on those applications,” Phillips-Hill said.

Killion is hopeful the legislation will get passed this session.

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