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Can I keep my estate planning documents secure online?

A growing number of New York residents and people across the nation are choosing to keep their important documents online. Some companies are offering services to help them with this endeavor. While it might be viewed as a natural progression and there are benefits to doing this, it is important to put very careful thought into whether it is a good idea.

Online storage could be beneficial for some. Estate planning documents should be kept in one place so there is easy access, but that does not necessarily mean it should be online. If the executor, the beneficiaries, and other important people in the testator's life know where they are and how to gain access to them, any location should be sufficient. People who are efficient with the web and electronic record keeping will likely be able to navigate this terrain. For some, however, the tried and true methods, such as a safety deposit box or a safe, might be preferable.

Deciding to go the online route can help keep better track not just of the estate plan, but the online accounts as well. User agreements for access can vary, so this should be accounted for when drafting the estate plan and seeking to make certain those who should have access do. Knowing about any changes to the law regarding online accounts and gaining access requires a legal professional who is up to date on these laws.

Some are uncomfortable with storing their most intimate personal information online for fear it could be accessed by someone with malicious intent, changed without permission, or misplaced. No matter where the documents are stored, it is critical to remember that the actual signed documents - the ones that will be used during probate - are necessary. This is especially true in New York, where original copies are required. With any estate planning issue, a law firm that understands the law and all potential concerns should be contacted for advice beforehand.

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    --David and Ajia Cherry, Fairport
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Weinstein & Randisi - estate planning

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