Federal Law Does Not Bar Access to Decedent’s On-Line Accounts (Mass.)

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts has held that the federal Stored Communications Act (18 U.S.C. §§ 2701 et. seq.) does not prohibit Internet service providers from providing access to the digital assets of a decedent to the personal representatives of the decedent’s estate.  Ajemian v. YAHOO!, 478 Mass. 169 (2017), No. SJC-12237  (Mass. 10/16/2017).

Note:  This appears to be the first case to address this issue, and hopefully other courts will follow suit.  The decision does not mean that personal representatives are entitled to access to the decedent’s digital assets, but only that federal law does not prohibit access.  It therefore removes the primary obstacle to the implementation of the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, which has been enacted in a number of states and is currently pending in the Pennsylvania legislature as S.B. 827.

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