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Can a digital app assist with estate planning needs?

Think of virtually any need that a New Jersey resident might have, and there is likely an online application in place to meet that need. With the announcement of a recently released app, estate planning can be added to that list. The company offering the service is known as Estate Assist, and promises to address an estate planning need that many individuals are not even aware exists.

Estate Assist is essentially a digital safe deposit box. Users can upload a list of their online and offline accounts, as well as the user names and passwords associated with each. In this way, one's heirs will have the ability to locate and access these accounts after their loved one has died, an ability that is not always readily available. Currently, when an individual dies, those left behind can encounter a great deal of difficulty gaining access to email, social media accounts and various forms of cloud storage.

In addition to simply providing a list of these accounts and access information, Estate Assist can also control access to this information by requiring heirs to submit proof that the account holder is deceased. It is unclear what types of proof of death would be accepted, and whether the program itself would screen such documentation or if an employee would be required to verify claims of death before the contents of the app were released. The owner of the company did make assurances that users would be protected from identity theft.

For those in New Jersey who have not given much thought to how to pass on their digital assets, Estate Assist may be an option worth investigating. The main focus of all estate planning efforts is creating a smooth and favorable transfer of assets from an individual to his or her heirs. In some ways, technology like the application mentioned here can greatly assist in reaching that goal.

Source: techcrunch.com, "Estate Assist Wants To Provide Estate Planning For The Social Media Age", Sarah Buhr, Oct. 1, 2014

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