It is timely to discuss a new option in estate planning that is available nationwide, including in Texas. With the growing availability of digital tools, it is not surprising for online start-ups to emerge that offer certain estate planning services. These services offer the benefit of storing estate planning documents and other pertinent information in a cloud-based "vault" and to maintain the information perpetually. In some cases, interested families may even keep a historical record of all estate information pertaining to generations of family members.
A guaranteed storage location for vital documents helps to solve one common estate administration problem faced by many personal representatives. They often have difficulties finding the locations of a decedents' vital papers. This new option will make everything available with the entry of a password and the click of a button.
However, these start-up services have not been around for more than a few years, and it is difficult to predict which ones will survive into the future. On the other hand, there are procedures that will likely be followed should a site close, which will probably include sending notice to customers about steps that can be taken to transfer information to another company. Perhaps the most feared weakness of these services is their vulnerability to hacking and the loss or theft of information.
Until substantial assurances to consumers are made, the online storage services may grow slowly. Furthermore, anyone interested in such services should be aware that there must be an original paper copy of one's wills, trusts, powers of attorney and the like. The documents cannot generally be constructed online and solely stored online. That requirement applies in Texas and the vast majority of states at this time. In light of these and other issues, it is recommended that an individual consult first with his or her estate planning attorney prior to signing up for a digital estate planning service.
Source: cnbc.com, "Is a digital last will and testament right for you?", Constance Gustke, Oct. 19, 2015