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Estate administration in the digital age

6/30/2016 | Kaplin Stewart Blog

In today’s increasingly wired world, there seems to be a app or software program for everything. In terms of estate planning, there are multiple companies that offer to store documents online, which can assist loved ones when the time comes to handle estate administration. That said, the online realm is also subject to attack from cyber thieves. Many in Pennsylvania are concerned about the security of these documents, and the risk that they or their loved ones could be the victim of theft if their estate plan is accessed by the wrong parties.

One answer lies in creating a comprehensive estate plan that will be stored in both online and offline versions, and limiting the sensitive information that is contained in the online format. The reason that many people seek online document storage is to protect against the loss of estate planning paperwork and to make sure that the right people can access the plan when the time comes. However, there is no need to include many of the details that attract cyber thieves, such as Social Security Numbers, credit card and bank account numbers.

Once a person has passed away, any open lines of credit will quickly be apparent to surviving loved ones in the form of mailed bills and notices. As for Social Security Numbers, that information is likely already known by those who would handle estate administration. When it comes to bank accounts, the named beneficiary would be able to access the account by simply providing various forms of identification, and would not need to know the account number.

Many people choose to consolidate all of the information concerning bank accounts, titles, deeds and other assets in one place, and to keep that information out of their online storage plans. If that information is held by a trusted family member or the attorney who will handle the estate administration, then the person who creates the plan should rest assured that all of the bases have been covered. Online estate planning may one day be the norm, but for now, many in Pennsylvania feel more secure using a combination of online and traditional storage options.

Source:, “Cybersecure Your Clients’ Estate Planning Experience“, Scott Huff, June 17, 2016