Companies now are helping people store their important digital assets in one place. As we become more comfortable with having even the most important aspects of our lives online, it’s a natural next step that estate planning will move online.
One of the most important aspects of having estate planning in place is making sure that executors, beneficiaries and other people who will be affected in the event of your passing, are aware of the arrangements beforehand.
Some of the benefits of storing important information online include portability and ease of access. Your documents will be available anywhere there’s an internet connection.
However, before you put all of your estate-planning documents online, consider these items:
- While for the tech-savvy, an online system can be a great tool for a lifetime maintenance plan for an estate, it may not be for everyone.
- However, an online tool can also help begin tough conversations about death, estate planning, and the future. This type of tool can also help to organize your estate planning and help to include a sometimes overlooked group of assets: your online accounts. These accounts need to be included in estate planning so that they can be accessed after death. If not, they may be destroyed.
- The Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA) lets those designated as fiduciaries access some digital assets in the 45 states and DC where it’s been enacted. However, this 2015 law doesn’t allow full access of your accounts to your attorney or executors, if you haven’t specified access in a legal document, such as your will. As a result, your bank accounts could be accessed, but without specific permission, your texts, emails, and social media accounts could not. In addition, not all states have passed laws on digital assets, so it’s important to include this in your estate planning.
- Your executor, who’s going to be in charge of everything, should have access to all of your accounts. Give him or her your password, login information and the answers to security questions.
If you’re thinking about using an online tool, take a look at its security requirements. The service should encrypt all information and comply with data compliance protocol, such as HIPAA for medical documents.
As a back-up, save your physical documents in a safe place. Sometimes, you’ll need a signed document. For example, hospitals may not accept electronic copies of legal documents like a power of attorney or a health directive. States also have varying rules on paper documents, with some requiring original copies for most legal documents. You should also store originals and copies with your attorney, and in a safe or other secure location in your home with other important documents, like birth certificates and marriage licenses.
Remember that storing estate planning documents in a safety deposit box isn’t recommended. This is because they’re typically frozen in the event of your death. It’s, therefore, a complicated process to access them. If you haven’t named another person on the box, your family would have to go through probate court to access the contents.
Start your estate planning as early as possible. Don’t wait for a life-altering event.
Reference: CNBC (July 25, 2018) “Here's what you need to know before storing your will online”