My friend and colleague, Gene Hennig, passed away on August 25, 2015. I had the privilege of working with Gene at two different law firms over the past 18 years.
Gene was a business law attorney at the Gray Plant Mooty law firm and was one of Minnesota’s commissioners to Uniform Law Commission. In 2009, I started writing and speaking about an emerging area of law—estate planning for passwords, online accounts, and digital property. Gene thought that the current state laws didn’t adequately deal with these emerging issues, so Gene thought this would be a great topic for a new uniform state law. We co-authored and submitted a proposal to the Uniform Law Commission on May 31, 2011, for a uniform law on fiduciary powers and authority to access online accounts and digital property during incapacity and after death.
With Gene’s encouragement, the Uniform Law Commission appointed a Study Committee in January 2012 to consider this topic. Gene and I were both involved in that process, and the Study Committee presented its final report at the July 2012 Uniform Law Commission annual meeting. On July 17, 2012, the Uniform Law Commission appointed a Drafting Committee to prepare a uniform law on fiduciary access to digital assets, and Gene and I participated in that process together. The first reading of the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Access Act (UFADAA) was at the July 2013 Uniform Law Commission annual meeting.
Gene was diagnosed with a brain tumor in November of 2013, but he continued to stay actively involved in the drafting of UFADAA. On July 16, 2014, the Uniform Law Commission approved the final version of UFADAA at their annual meeting. Gene continued to be actively involved in encouraging enactment of UFADAA. On January 20, 2015, Gene and I testified together at the Civil Law and Data Practices Committee of the Minnesota House of Representatives to explain why UFADAA is needed in Minnesota. Our local Minnesota Channel 5 Eyewitness News ran a TV segment about it. At last count, 27 states had introduced legislation based on UFADAA.
The Uniform Law Commission approved a revised version of UFADAA at their July 2015 meeting, and the final text of the revised UFADAA is expected by October 2015. The draft version of the revised UFADAA and a discussion of the changes made by the revised UFADAA are available on the Uniform Law Commission Web site.
Gene lived a full and amazing life as a lawyer, a law professor at both William Mitchell College of Law and the University of St. Thomas School of Law, a Uniform Law Commissioner, a volunteer, a family man, a world traveler (vising more than 60 countries!), and much more. You can read more about Gene’s life at the following Web sites: