GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. – The family that inspired a new Minnesota law on digital access after death is sharing their story.
The law will let you decide who can open your computer, social media and email if you die or become incapacitated. It takes effect August 1.
Kristi Anderson’s son Jake was a freshman at the University of Minnesota when he was found dead in December 2013.
“He was a pretty amazing kid, he was well loved in the school. He was a role model. In the field,” described Anderson.
Jake Anderson, 19, was found under the 10th Avenue bridge along the Mississippi River bank.
“He was only three blocks away from the Christmas party where he was last seen,” said Kristi Anderson.
His death was ruled accidental hypothermia and the case was closed. But, the Anderson family believes they believe Jake’s cell phone could hold clues to his death. But, they can’t get access.
“They [investigators] didn't open the phone which was the key for us, nowadays, you'd think that would be somewhat standard,” said Anderson.
Jake's cell phone was in his parent’s name and on his parent’s contract, but since he didn't have a will, his family has no legal right to see what's on it.
“When we called Apple, we called Sprint; they would tell us you can't get into it,” said Anderson.
The Anderson’s went to Minnesota Representative Debra Hilstrom (D-Brooklyn Center) to push for change. After their meeting, Rep. Hilstrom authored a bill that states your digital data is part of your property.
“We want you to think about your digital access as you would think about anything else like a chair or your car or your home,” said Rep. Hilstrom.
Attorney Jeff Molever said people need to think digital when coming up with their big picture plans.
“It will be included in whatever they set up, a power of attorney or will or trust. But, there needs to be specific language in there, directing digital access,” pointed out Molever.
The Anderson family hopes the law inspired by Jake’s story can help other families.
“We're doing this for future people who could be in our situation, we hope no one is ever in our situation. The legacy of Jake is that no one will ever be in this situation again.