COLUMBUS—The Ohio legislature passed a bill to establish rules for determining what happens to digital assets such as email, Facebook, and Twitter accounts upon a person’s death or incapacity.  The bill, developed in close consultation with the Ohio State Bar Association, also contains updates on twelve aspects of state law to help ensure that property can be transferred from one generation to the next generation efficiently.

Probate and estate laws exist to ensure the orderly transfer of property from an existing owner, either during the owner’s life or after the owner’s death, to beneficiaries who are chosen by the owner or established by law. The practices and formalities of accomplishing this are always a work in progress, and HB 432 addresses new developments in the way these transfers are carried out. It also responds to the proliferation of digital assets and the need for clear rules regarding these assets.

“As new and better ways are developed to make these transfers, the probate and estate laws must be fine-tuned to keep pace with these practices,” said Rep. Bob Cupp (R-Lima), who jointly sponsored the bill with Rep. Jeff Rezabek (R-Clayton). “In today’s world when many Ohioans post photos, comments, and personal communications online, it is important to ensure that our laws provide for after-death access to these treasures -- or not – depending on the maker’s intent.”

Generally, the bill revises the law governing decedent's estates by making changes in the Ohio Trust Code, the Probate Law, the Uniform Principal and Income Act, the Transfers to Minors Act, and the Uniform Simultaneous Death Act.

Specifically, the bill gives Ohioans the ability to maintain control of their digital assets, and it enables better communication between internet service and social media providers, their subscribers, and the subscribers’ next of kin.

The bill passed the Ohio House on May 18.  Ohio Senate passed the bill on December 8. The bill now heads to Governor Kasich’s desk for his signature before becoming law.

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