Legal Blog

An Organizer’s Dream, But a Potential Estate Planning Nightmare

As published in GGI  FYI Trust & Estate Planning News lock-keyboardHere’s a sad, but true story. The parents of a 35-year-old son, who had suddenly passed away, retained a law firm to administer their son’s estate. The law firm asked the parents for a copy of their son’s Will, his income tax return, his bank and brokerage statements, and his life insurance policies. Unfortunately, none of these documents could be produced as the son had gone paperless (everything was stored electronically on the son’s computer) and failed, during his lifetime, to provide anyone with his user identification and password. Sadly, stories like this raise new legal issues—issues that didn’t have to be addressed before, as years ago, people stored their most important documents in safes, fire proof cabinets, and safe deposit boxes. Now, almost all documents are stored electronically and paper documents are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Almost everyone dreams of going paperless as paper takes up space and can be hard to find. In contrast, electronically stored documents can be accessed 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, as long as the correct user ID and password is used. Unfortunately, more often than not, user IDs and passwords aren’t written down, much less shared with other individuals. As a result, it’s difficult (in some cases, almost impossible) to recover important electronically stored information—information that will be needed to properly administer a decedent’s estate. User IDs and passwords need to be safeguarded. Otherwise, electronically stored data won’t be secure. But, at the same time, user IDs and passwords need to be shared with the individuals named as the executors in the Will. Otherwise, as noted above, the beneficiaries named in the Will may not be able to gain access to their inheritance.


Maurice Offit elevatorpitch_meetme | 301.575.0308 Maurice Offit is an estate planning attorney, co-founder of Offit Kurman Attorneys at Law and a member of the firm’s Management Committee. Mr. Offit counsels a large number of clients who share an interest in minimizing estate taxes and asset protection from the claims of creditors. You can also connect with Offit Kurman via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, and LinkedIn. WASHINGTON | BALTIMORE | FREDERICK | PHILADELPHIA | WILMINGTON | VIRGINIA | NEW YORK