Mullen and Iannarone, P.C.
Serving the legal needs of corporations, individuals and
families of Suffolk County since 1972

Digital wills and trusts as estate planning options

New York residents create wills and trusts to ensure that their families are financially secure when they pass away. Despite this, many family members could spend months or years searching for the legal, financial and health care documents. Along with putting all of these items in one place and making them accessible to family members, digital document archives are generally less expensive than traditional estate planning methods.

According to a California-based financial advisor, digital wills and trusts are a great option for individuals. He has seen a widow spend seven years looking for her deceased husband's investments and other clients spend months looking for estate-related documents. The advisor believes that this is a chronic issue.

However, a Pennsylvania estate planning attorney is concerned about the risks that digital archives pose. The first issue is that many of the companies that offer these services are startups. Although every company is vulnerable to failure or hacking, startups are at even higher risk, which requires more due diligence. One startup has already shut down after a buyout, and it had to notify its customers to download their documents within 30 days. Furthermore, the documents that these services store contain sensitive information, putting customers at risk if they are hacked into.

Despite digital wills and trusts being cheaper and more accessible to family members, there are few states that honor them. There are also few court precedents that govern digital wills. Although an Ohio judge previously ruled that a digitally-signed will was legal, many states are still determining the rules.

Although individuals can make their own wills and trusts and save them digitally, not understanding and complying with New York estate planning laws could mean that their digital wills and trusts are invalid. This could leave their family members in a tough spot when they pass away. To prevent this, people may want to seek the guidance of estate planning attorneys.

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