Here is a sad, but true, story: The parents of a 35-year-old man who 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.
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.
ABOUT MAURICE OFFIT
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Maurice Offit is an estate planning and asset protection planning attorney. Mr. Offit counsels a large number of clients who share an interest in minimizing estate taxes and protecting their assets from the claims of creditors.
Mr. Offit has more than thirty years of experience with a focus on estate planning, estate and trust administration, and asset protection planning for his clients. While no two plans are exactly alike, Mr. Offit makes sure that they have one thing in common – they meet with the client’s satisfaction and approval.
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Offit Kurman is one of the fastest-growing, full-service law firms in the mid-Atlantic region. With over 185 attorneys offering a comprehensive range of services in virtually every legal category, the firm is well positioned to meet the needs of dynamic businesses and the people who own and operate them. Our twelve offices serve individual and corporate clients along the I95 corridor in the Virginia, Washington, DC, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York City regions. At Offit Kurman, we are our clients’ most trusted legal advisors, professionals who help maximize and protect business value and personal wealth. In every interaction, we consistently maintain our clients’ confidence by remaining focused on furthering their objectives and achieving their goals in an efficient manner. Trust, knowledge, confidence—in a partner, that’s perfect.
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