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Digital estate planning

New York residents who are embarking upon the estate planning process may have heard about new digital options and wondered if this is the right choice for them. Digital document archives have both pros and cons associated with them. Family members have sometimes spent months or even years searching for financial documentation belonging to deceased loved ones, and digital storage has the potential to make it simpler to find those items.

However, the companies providing these services tend to be startups, and in an industry like estate planning where reliability and longevity are necessary, the volatility of startups may be a problem. One startup that folded gave its customers 30 days to download their documents. Hacking is another danger.

While people may be tempted by the ability to bypass an attorney that these digital sites offer, this may also be to their disadvantage. For example, state laws vary, and do-it-yourself estate planners might also fail to keep documents updated.

Advocates of this new model for estate planning say that the sites are secure and can guide people through the process. The founder of one says that her broader goal is to open up a national conversation about death.

An aversion to discussing death can be one reason people put off estate planning or do not maintain their estate planning documents in a secure location. However, whether they choose digital or traditional methods for estate planning, it is better to start a conversation early on with loved ones. Speaking with an attorney may help a person develop an estate plan that is less likely to be challenged in court. An attorney may also help ensure that legal language is correct and that wills and other documents remain current.

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