Berman & Asbel, LLP

Using online vaults to store end-of-life documents

Many Pennsylvania residents take advantage of online services to make their lives simpler and easier, and the growth of cloud-based data storage has led some of them to store important legal documents in digital vaults. When end-of-life documents are stored in this way, it can make matters much easier for heirs when a loved one passes away, but there are a number of important matters to be considered before taking this step.

A number of companies have emerged in recent years that offer a secure online vault to store end-of-life documents such as wills, life insurance policies and health care directives, but questions persist about their reliability. Many of these companies are start-ups, and some experts point out that their survival in the marketplace is far from assured. There are also questions about how secure these important documents would be if the online vault provider were to be acquired by a larger technology company.

While cloud-based online vault providers may take steps to ensure that the documents they are entrusted with are secure, the possibility of hackers gaining access to them should not be ignored. These services should also be looked upon as a supplement to, rather than a replacement for, paper documents as the laws regarding digital legal documents are still evolving.

Experienced estate planning attorneys may provide guidance regarding the reliability of online document storage companies based on how long they have been in business and the financial assets at their disposal. Attorneys could also recommend that paper end-of-life documents be stored in a central location. Estate planning attorneys may also recommend that wills, trusts and other important documents be revisited regularly and revised as necessary, and they could then ensure that both paper and virtual documents are amended to reflect these changes.

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