Proposed bill would protect digital assets after you die

By Julie Gargotta, Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, March 04, 2015, 5:12 AM EST

A new bill proposed by a Florida lawmaker could change who has control of your social media accounts and other digital assets after you die.  

A local mother wishes it had been in place years ago.

In 2009, Kathleen Yockey’s daughter, Michaela, graduated from Florida State and was ready to start graduate school. But those dreams were cut short when Michaela was killed in a car accident.

The Yockeys chose to memorialize her Facebook page, thinking it would freeze it. Instead, everything disappeared.

“It was like somebody had taken a stack of personal letters and memories and just threw them away,” said Yockey.

While Yockey has gotten much of the data back over time, it was devastating.

“I want to keep not only those words that she said, but even things she didn’t say to me. You don’t, you can’t get those kind of memories back if they take them,” said Yockey.

Facebook’s latest feature allows users to designate a legacy contact who will manage some aspects of one’s memorialized page after they’re gone, but policies could change.

Digital assets, an extension of you, are a much bigger umbrella. They encompass everything, from Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest to email and financial accounts.

“It may not be important to the person who’s passed, because they’re not here to recognize it. But it’s important to their loved ones, who have to see the comments and the posts over and over,” said Bree Gotsdiner, a social media expert.

You also have usernames and passwords, but legally those digital assets can only be accessed by the original user.

A bill by state Sen. Dorothy Hukill could change all that.

Hukill, who represents Lake, Marion and Volusia counties, wants you to be able designate a personal representative to handle all aspects of your digital assets.

“The law is going to name somebody," Yockey said. "The law is going to set up somebody to be the administrator of the estate. I think that person should have access.”

Hukill’s digital assets bill still has several hurdles to jump.

One other state, Delaware, passed similar legislation in the last few months.