A few days ago, I caught a story about a new internet startup called Estate Assist:
Woody Levin watched his family, a family full of lawyers, scramble to find his grandmother’s assets and info right after she had passed. He started thinking about his own life and the kinds of digital assets Millennials will leave behind. That gave him the idea to create a digital safe deposit box for all assets, both online and off.
His company, Estate Assist, launches out of beta today. It’s aim is to help you store all your online passwords, social media accounts, digital health records, bank info and other paperwork. This is different from other companies offering online estate assistance. Much of this is actually a paid service involving a law firm and does not include online stored access to accounts.
The site works by informing whichever loved ones you choose that the account exists. It will release information about all your accounts and digital paperwork as soon as this person can verify you’ve passed.
– Sarah Buhr, TechCrunch
In theory, this is a useful idea – there is so much information gathering required when someone dies. Most people probably aren’t concerned about access to social media accounts, but bank, retirement and other financial account data is critical when attempting to determine probate options.
Security and privacy notwithstanding, it raises questions specific to Florida residents about the accuracy of the information stored.
How effective is a “digital safe deposit box” for the survivors of a deceased Florida resident?
I haven’t been through the site yet but I’d be curious to know:
- How does the site address the problem of updates/amendments to estate documents? Which Last Will & Testament is most recent?
- Copies of Wills are much harder to admit to a probate court proceeding than originals. Does Estate Assist offer a solution to help users locate original documents?
- What about locking down banking/money transfer accounts after a decedent passes to avoid unauthorized transactions?
As an aside, almost every single estate planning client I’ve ever helped asks me the same question: Where should I store my Will or Trust?
There isn’t really a correct answer. If you have put it in a safe deposit box, you may need a court order just to access the box. If you leave it with the lawyer who prepared it, I sure hope they survive you.
These are the bigger problems for Florida residents and prospective probate clients I’d love to see Estate Assist solve.
Update 6/9/2019: Estate Assist has apparently shut down.