Information about the location of important estate documents and access cannot die with the people who executed the documents. Storing information about estate matters such as wills & trusts and significant passwords is a vital part of estate planning.
It may be possible to secure a will with the Surrogate Court in some New York counties or register it with a private service. But family members should know about the location these documents and important financial documents such as life insurance policies, divorce records and deeds. The physical document must be kept secure. A safety deposit box or a secure location at home may be possibilities for keeping them safe.
Digital assets such as online accounts, social media accounts, websites, emails or digital currencies, have become an important part of estates. Family members or other trusted agents need to know about their existence and have access to it once their owners pass away. Passwords are also the key to gaining access. A special password organizer book is a low tech but effective method. However, there are security risks because these books may be lost or stolen. Password manager programs generate effective passwords.
It is also important to take steps to protect digital assets against loss. These include using a multifunction scanner. This is especially recommended for new important documents such as a passport and life insurance policy. Backing up digital documents on a secured digital card or thumb drive that is easily removed from devices also protects information. Copies should be made periodically and placed in another location, such as a safety deposit box. Emailing copies of these documents is risky if a laptop or phone are hacked or stolen. People who travel should also take copies of this information, in encrypted form, with them. Strong and easily remembered passwords are important.
Those who do not want to carry a USB stick or SD card can create a cloud storage account. A special account may be created for backing up documents. Keeping sensitive information on external storage or in the cloud is safer than traveling with a computer, tablet or smartphone which may be lost or stolen.
While it is important to ensure the documents are kept in secure places, it is equally important to make sure that they are legally sound. An experienced attorney can help draft important estate documents and can also provide guidance on their use.