In the past, family members had to dig through paper files and cluttered desks and hope that they would find necessary documents to handle end-of-life matters for loved ones. Today documents and information can be centralized in online vaults, but proper planning and legal documents are still necessary.
Just as we are all writing and reading more through digital formats, our digital identities and assets, estate planning documents and end-of-life wishes are now moving into a digital world. An insightful article from US News, "Passwords and Powers of Attorney: Your Digital Estate Planning Options," explores the concept of managing digital legacies and worldly goods through the use of online vaults. There are several companies offering a means of gathering and storing important information so that heirs are spared the scavenger hunts that usually accompany the passing of a loved one.
These services provide prompts to encourage users to think about issues they haven't put in writing, like what music we would like playing in our final hours.
There are several companies that let you create a digital repository of your will, health care directives, funeral wishes, family photos, plans for your pet, desires for your Facebook page, and what you'd like to have in your obituary. You can input information now that you want your family to find when you die or even share the information with family now.
You should talk about end-of-life issues with your family, record your wishes and then make it easy for family members to find them when they're needed. You can choose whom you wish to see specific information and whether you want to share it now or not until after you've passed on.
The goal is to make this as easy as possible for heirs by having this information all in one place. These sites provide places to upload wills, trusts, health care directives, powers of attorney and appraisals of your valuable items. You can also record the location of notarized and signed copies of documents and the contact information for your estate planning attorney.
Charges vary with these services, and they all have options for sharing all the aspects of your digital life, from passwords to bank accounts to the message you want sent to your Twitter followers after you've passed away.
It's important to note that while these online services are definitely helpful, they do not replace the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney. Proper documents still need to be prepared, and every situation is different. Basic planning documents and how to secure their safe storage is just one part of estate planning. An estate planning attorney will help cover all bases.
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Reference: US News (December 3, 2015) "Passwords and Powers of Attorney: You're Digital Estate Planning Options"