Sen. Dorothy Hukill files bill allowing access to online accounts after death of loved one

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Once it was birth, death and taxes; now add Facebook to the list.

As Floridians increase their “digital footprint,” those online assets — Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, emails and other cloud-based data — now take on a life beyond the physical body.

Many accounts exist long after death, sometimes to the dismay of loved ones.

When an online user dies, what sometimes goes with them are account passwords and IDs to legally access assets such as financial accounts, records and other social media.

Moreover, as emotional loved ones attend to final arrangements, risks of identity theft and other data breaches increase. Without access to accounts, even just to save family photos and correspondence, much of that valuable information can be compromised, or lost.

State Sen. Dorothy Hukill seeks to create a process for Florida families and relatives to safely access online accounts of those who have gone to the great cloud in the sky.

The Port Orange Republican filed legislation today for the 2015 legislative session that will allow access and control of digital assets to designated representatives of the estate. Authorized individuals can then obtain necessary info so they can handle the deceased’s final affairs.

Hukill’s legislation also provides a similar authority for trustees, guardians or agents.

Online account administrators frequently face competing requests for access, while at the same time developing policies, at times conflicting, to protect those digital assets from unauthorized use. A number of those accounts have actual monetary value, like investments and bank accounts. Others have sentimental value, such as family photos.

Hukill believes that access to these irreplaceable digital assets is critical to Florida families and loved ones.

“As we become more dependent on technology in our lives from social media to paying our bills online, it is important to consider who will be able to access these accounts,” Hukill said. “This is an increasingly important aspect of estate planning.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.