There are certain laws with regard to estate planning that are essential to successfully manage your assets and life choices. Attorneys will always be necessary to help folks implement viable planning, however, as the world becomes increasingly technological, you may need to adapt your planning.
Traditionally, estate planning is exclusively the realm of an attorney. You need to hire an attorney to prepare important legal documents, including wills, trusts, powers of attorney (both financial and health care), living wills and other documents. Now there are online sites that let you prepare your own documents, unfortunately without legal advice. There are too many pitfalls to handling things on your own to not at least consult with an attorney, especially with complicated planning issues.
However, you can supplement your attorney-driven estate planning with some of the available online technology. Websites are never a complete replacement for attorneys and financial planners, but they can help you think and plan for the future in the privacy of your own home.
At Everplans, for an annual fee you can set up a secure digital archive of everything your family may need if something should happen to you. The site guides you through the process of a comprehensive end-of-life plan. It has a questionnaire, where you list family members and other people to contact; important online and physical accounts and passwords; information about your home, like bills and vendors; health and medical information; final wishes; and funeral preferences.
You also can upload and store a copy of your important estate planning documents, insurance policies, advance health care directives and DNRs along with contact information for your attorney, financial planner, tax preparer, physicians and other important individuals.
No one has access unless you give it to them. However, all that a loved one may need in an emergency can be in his or her hands in just a few minutes.
For documenting a more personal side to your life, Safebeyond, which is powered and endorsed by AARP, allows you to set up a digital vault to secure a record of your life’s meaningful moments for later viewing. For a small fee, you can set up digital messages that can be delivered to loved ones in the future after your death, by date, on special occasions, or by special locations. You can even set up social media posts on sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram to be made upon a trigger after your death to say farewell. Plus, you can store your online account information and passwords for such accounts to provide access for your loved ones, as you see fit.
Both of these sites appear to be very secure and totally encrypted, so you can limit who has access, but you should always ask questions.
These sites can open up a whole new world of estate planning to explore. You can prepare for more than just your will and trust, and help your family upon your serious illness or death.
Laurie G. Steiner is a member of the law firm of Solomon, Steiner & Peck, Ltd. She is a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation and the Ohio State Bar Association and an Accredited attorney for the preparation, presentation and prosecution of claims for veteran’s benefits before the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). She practices in the areas of Elder Law, Medicaid, VA and Disability Planning, and Estate and Trust Planning and Administration. ssandplaw.com