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Technology creates new issues in estate planning

Washington residents are wise to plan for the future through the use of estate planning tools. Getting older is inevitable and having a plan for problems that could potentially arise can help people avoid difficult situations in the future. Many Washington residents take appropriate steps by creating wills and other directives for future care, but they should also be aware of unique situations that can occur under estate planning, especially with technological advances in information-related areas.

It seems that individuals are always attempting to keep up with the latest technologies, whether it be the best smartphone or the newest social media website. The phenomenon is no different when it comes to the law. One area where the law lags behind involves estate protection and will creation. Many individuals have their very valuable information saved digitally, through online services such as a social media account, an online bank account, or a personal email account. Issues with wills and estates arise because many websites' and companies' privacy policies prevent non-account holders from accessing private information. This means that if an individual dies without either saving their information to an accessible location or sharing private passwords with designated individuals, their beneficiaries will have a very difficult time accessing assets as well as things of sentimental value such as digital photographs.

While states across the country are attempting to remedy this problem through new legislation, there has been no uniform law to provide guidance for estate issues arising with technology. Certain websites offer services that allow an individual to designate other people who are allowed to access private information should the individual die or become incapacitated. Individuals can also be proactive in ensuring that they save important personal documents to a location that can later be accessed by a trusted person.

The world of technology is constantly changing, and with it so is the law. Attempting to plan ahead and prepare for end-of-life decisions can be overwhelming in itself without consideration of the masses of digital information that needs to be dealt with. Washington attorneys can help individuals understand their options and prepare their wills and estates so that all of the individual's important information is protected.

Source: New York Times, "How to digitally avoid taking it to the grave," Thomas J. Fitzgerald, July 2, 2014

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