Chances are you spend a lot more time online with your digital assets than you think. With digital assets and our comfort level with life online growing daily, it’s a matter of time before your start wondering about placing your documents in the cloud. However, as noted by CNBC in a recent article, “Here's what you need to know before storing your will online,” there are pros and cons to this brave new world.
Some of the benefits to 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.
Don’t make the common mistake of storing estate documents in a safety deposit box. When someone dies, they are usually frozen and getting into the contents of the box becomes very complicated, unless there are other people named as owners of the box. If you’ve put other owners on the box, make sure to remind them from time to time where you have placed the key.
Equally important as where you store your estate plan, is having an estate plan. If you don’t have an estate plan already in place, make an appointment with an estate planning attorney. Waiting for a trigger event is always a bad idea and adds unnecessary stress and cost at a time that is already stressful.
Reference: CNBC (July 25, 2018) “Here's what you need to know before storing your will online”