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Online estate documents have drawbacks

An online storage system for estate documents may be advantageous for those who are tech-skilled. But, all online accounts should be addressed in estate planning documents or access may be denied or accounts may be destroyed. This can allow lawyers, executors, beneficiaries and relatives to have quick access to wills, medical documents and other information.

The Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, adopted in Michigan and 44 other states, allows appointed fiduciaries to gain access to digital assets. However, attorneys or executors may not have full access if they were not designated in any legal document. While specific assets such as bank accounts may be accessed, they may not be able to obtain texts, emails and social media accounts unless there was specific authorization.

Executors and other trusted individuals should have a person's password, login information and answers to security questions. A password manager is an effective and affordable way to keep these current and in one location. Any online storage must be secure. Encryption is an effective method when it complies to data compliance guidelines. It may be advisable to store only parts of an estate plan online or use an online account to designate the location of important accounts and documents.

Even with this technology, however, the actual signed documents are the most important. In some cases, signed documents must be submitted. Hospitals, for example, do not accept electronic copies of a power of attorney or a healthcare directive.

Original copies should be stored with an attorney and in another safe location at home with birth certificates, marriage licenses and other important documents. A safety deposit box, however, is not recommended for storage. These are frozen when a person dies and opening them is a complicated process. If another person is not named, a family member will have to seek permission from the probate court to gain access.

An attorney can help start estate planning as soon as possible to assure that documents are drafted properly and are in place when they are needed. This can also help lessen stress and legal complications.

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