Once a person has discussed, read through and appended their signature to their last estate planning document, they will likely shake hands with their attorney and depart the office with a rather thick file in hand. Their satisfaction with these efforts may prove to be short-lived, however, as they will be confronted with an important issue upon arriving home: where exactly this file should be located.
While leaving it on a kitchen counter or coffee table is clearly not an option as it could easily get lost, there’s also the possibility that putting it in a desk drawer could mean that anyone could access it or that if you get too clever, either you — or your loved ones — won’t remember its location.
Interestingly enough, entrepreneurs have come up with a wholly digital solution to this problem in the form of a document storage platform. Specifically, in exchange for a monthly or yearly fee, users can store copies of their estate planning documents in an online database that is automatically backed up to the cloud.
In addition, the storage platform is structured in such a way that it uses a web crawler to scan online obituaries/death notices on a daily basis to confirm that a subscriber is still among the living and, in the event it finds evidence showing this is not the case, issue alerts to up to 14 predetermined and prescreened beneficiaries.
While there are some obvious advantages to digitally storing estate planning documents — security, restricted access and, of course, instant notification — experts indicate that there are also potential drawbacks to such a system.
First, they point out that it will be necessary to regularly update the contact information for any beneficiaries. Far more important, they argue, is the fact that the probate court tasked with overseeing the administration of a person’s estate may not accept digital copies as legal proof. In other words, they may require original copies bearing the signature of the deceased.
Experts indicate that those considering this option will likely want to discuss it with their attorney first and, at the very least, ensure that either they or another trusted individual are in possession of properly executed original copies of their vital estate planning documents.
What are your thoughts on storing estate planning documents online? Is it something you’d be willing to consider?