Teen inspires law for passing on digital assets

Minnesota state law now treats your digital property more like your physical property — at least in terms of what happens to it when you die. The new law, which went into effect on August 1, allows you to state in a a will, or in writing, whether you want the digital assets passed along to someone.

The push for the law began after Jake Anderson’s body was found along the Mississippi River in Minneapolis in December 2013. The 19-year-old was a freshman at the University of Minnesota, and was planning to walk a girl home from a party, but he vanished while she was retrieving her coat. Jake’s parents hoped to find clues on his iPhone, but Apple would not give them access since he was an adult.

While the new law will not give Jake’s parents access to the phone — since Jake did not have a will or state his intentions in writing — the law does provide an option for families going forward.

“What it will do is help anybody and everybody else who finds themselves in a situation where they can’t get into their loved ones’ digital data,” Kristi Anderson, Jake’s mom, told Fox 9.

Anderson calls the law the “Access Jake” law, and it is officially listed as the “Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act.”

“There is something with his name on it, something that will help other people. And Jake was a huge giver…and he would take joy in something positive coming out of his death,” Anderson said.

Minnesota is now one of about twenty states with a digital assets law. States are limited in what their laws can provide due to federal laws. 

The Andersons still hope to access Jake’s iPhone, but say it may require getting laws changed on a federal level.