OK Law Addresses Virtual Estates

December 7, 2010 -

If you are planning your last will and testament in the state of Oklahoma, you now have to worry about what to do with your virtual belongings. According to a report in the IB Times (thanks EZK), a new state law in Oklahoma gives estate executors and administrators the power to "access, administer, or terminate" social media and online accounts.

According to former state Rep. Ryan Kiesel (D-Seminole), a co-author of House Bill 2800 (before he left office), the law is meant to remind people that, when they are planning what happens to their real-world estate, they should probably figure out what they want done with their virtual stuff as well.

"The number of people who use Facebook today is almost equal to the population of the United States," said Kiesel. "When a person dies, someone needs to have legal access to their accounts to wrap up any unfinished business, close out the account if necessary or carry out specific instructions the deceased left in their will."

"Digital photo albums and e-mails are increasingly replacing their physical counterparts, and I encourage Oklahomans to think carefully about what they want to happen to these items when they pass away," he added.

The bill became the law of the land on November 1. The bill assumes ownership of social media accounts belong to the person that created them, but many sites like Facebook claim ownership via service agreements users sign off on when they sign up.

Kiesel has acknowledged that the law "may conflict" with those service agreements, but said that it is intended to "get people thinking about" taking care of all of their business before they pass on to the other side.

While not emphatically stated, the law could have jurisdiction over other types of online content such as Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, MMO accounts, etc. - and all the content within.


Comments

Re: OK Law Addresses Virtual Estates

I've actually thought about matters like this before. Not with "pixel assets" in an MMO or photos or even my music or Steam libraries, but with something much simpler. To the people I've met and regularly kept contact with, how to let them know if something happens to me.

Not to replace "real life" friends with internet ones, but there are genuinely some connections that I'd like to see resolved if I should suddenly die. I would not mind having that in a will, or giving access to my accounts in order to see those wishes fulfilled.

I understand that some websites have been set up to make automatic messages go out, but I'd like a legal, recognizable way to make sure any such death notice message sent out is real, intended, and believable to be true. I mean, any idiot can sign up a fake death notice in his buddy's name as a prank. To get a letter or email from the state of Oklahoma is a slightly more concrete message.

Re: OK Law Addresses Virtual Estates

Hmm, who to bequeath my DLC & iTunes downloads to?

Re: OK Law Addresses Virtual Estates

Makes sense to me!  I bequeath the games in my Steam account to...

- Left4Dead

Why are zombies always eating brains? I want to see zombies that eat toes for a living. Undead-related pun intended.

- Left4Dead Why are zombies always eating brains? I want to see zombies that eat toes for a living. Undead-related pun intended.

Re: OK Law Addresses Virtual Estates

I am curious, why do we need new laws to deal with this?  Wouldn't it fall under the same rules that cover all other intangible possessions?  How are these legally differnt?

Re: OK Law Addresses Virtual Estates

If they're attached to login accounts, as social network information generally is, then 'just' breaking into them or having them shut down by a third party might fall foul of any laws surrounding logins- I believe it's illegal to log into someone else's website account without the permission of the account holder in the UK- this would be a way of formalising the matter in a will.

/b

 
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