Bill would allow custodian to take over online accounts

Sammy Zimmermanns / MGN

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Floridians could designate a custodian to access and manage their social media, email and online financial accounts when they die or become incapacitated, under a bill moving through the state legislature.

Senate Bill 494 passed the Senate unanimously Tuesday, and a companion House bill has passed its committee reviews and is headed to the House floor.

Bill sponsor Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, said it would help guardians or executors of estates preserve and rescue valuable information and financial assets held in online accounts.

“It may be anything from all your kids’ baby pictures that are in the cloud and no one can get to, all the way to life insurance policies that no one may even know about when you die,” said Hukill. “In the old days you’d have a box full of papers somebody would go through — now those papers are all online.”

A similar bill failed last year in part because of opposition from Internet service providers, who feared it would force them to violate their guarantees of privacy to subscribers.

“The bill now addresses the chief privacy concerns we had last year,” said Carl Szabo of NetChoice, a trade association of Internet companies including AOL, Facebook and Google.

Szabo said the bill has been revised to require that owners of online accounts explicitly agree in a will or in an online tool provided by an Internet company to allow a custodian to take over the accounts in the case of death or incapacity.

Szabo said Google uses a tool called “inactivity account manager,” and Facebook offers a “legacy contact” designation tool.

If there is no designation through an online tool, will or power of attorney, then accounts would be controlled under the terms of the service provider’s user agreement, Hukill said.