The Internet has become an expansive virtual world users around the world are exploring, annexing, and defining, just as they always have always done in terra firma, or the natural physical world. With the click of a mouse, anybody has the ability to purchase digital books, movies, and music. People are also using the Internet to communicate with others. We create online accounts, paving digital footprints, trails of data from our Internet usage, and building pseudo-homes within the terrains of the World Wide Web on social media sites. It is undeniable that social media use is booming. According to Pew Internet Project, as of January 2014, 74% of online adults use social networking sites. When Internet users first make accounts on sites like Facebook, Google Plus, and Twitter, the process is straightforward. However, there is a complicated quandary that is all too often overlooked but demands attention: how to handle these digital outlets when an account-holder dies.
Take a moment and think about your “assets” and everything you “own.” Merriam Webster Dictionary describes an asset as “something that is owned by a person, company, etc.,” and Black’s Law Dictionary defines ownership as “the complete dominion, title, or proprietary right in a thing or claim.” When I was first asked the question above, only tangible items came to mind. I own the bejeweled wrist-watch I purchased with my very first paycheck (which is currently, luckily, in storage), the screen portrait my parents gave to me as an apartment-warming present, and a collection of CDs my older brothers handed down to me from their adolescence. These physical items constitute a small portion of my assets. However, according to some states, the dimensions of my assets are much greater than I ever possibly imagined. Delaware in particular has adopted a new law declaring “digital assets” such as social media accounts as inheritable property. Continue reading What Happens to a Person’s “Digital Assets” When They Die?: A Legislative Proposal