On September 13, 2017, Governor Christie signed legislation known as the “Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act.” In doing so, New Jersey joined 23 other states which have already have enacted a version of the law.

The new law recognizes a fiduciary’s right to control a decedent’s digital assets. Under the new law, a fiduciary’s power to manage a person’s tangible property when that person dies or becomes disabled is extended to include digital assets.

The act defines the term “digital assets” to include a person’s digital property and electronic communications. Some examples of digital assets are online bank accounts; email accounts and social media accounts; computer files; web domains; and virtual currency. Such assets include data, text, images, videos, sounds, codes, computer programs, software, databases, or the like. However, the law restricts a fiduciary’s access to certain electronic communications such as email, text messages and social media accounts unless the decedent or disabled owner consented to such access in a will, trust, or power of attorney.

The act covers four types of fiduciaries: executors or administrators of deceased persons’ estates, court-appointed guardians of incapacitated persons, agents appointed under powers of attorney, and trustees.

Under the new fiduciary access law, fiduciaries of digital assets are subject to the same fiduciary duties that typically apply to tangible assets.

To gain access to digital assets, a fiduciary is required to send a request to the custodian, with a copy of the document granting fiduciary authority, such as a power of attorney, court order or trust instrument. A fiduciary’s access to digital assets may be modified or eliminated by a user, by federal law, or by a terms-of-service agreement.

The new law takes effect 90 days after enactment.

The “Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act” is annexed here – Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act