Start-ups offer digital technology for estate planning services

The "cloud" is popular for those Internet-savvy people who believe in maximizing their online abilities. Cloud services allow an individual to store massive amounts of data and information on vast networks of digital resources that are physically separate from the user's own personal hard drive. With the emergence of such technology in Texas and worldwide, it was foreseeable that the digital storage and processing of estate planning documents, including wills and other legal instruments, would be right around the corner. 

Indeed, those services have cropped up, under names like Everplans, AfterSteps, Principled Heart and Estate Assist. People should be cautioned, however, that these services are comprised exclusively of Internet start-up companies, whose permanency has not yet passed the test of time. Most people who will use such a service do not want to entrust storage of vital personal legal matters to potentially fly-by-night companies.

In fact, one or more of the services have already closed, due to being bought out by competitors or larger companies. When that happened, customers had to download and remove their material, which was not a confidence builder for the consuming public. However, the spread of digital technology into many aspects of life is pervasive, and it can be expected that there will be a strong movement toward digital media in the coming decades. That trend will likely alleviate greatly one persistent problem:  the difficulty that many families have in locating the documents and assets of their deceased loved ones.

It appears likely that the new technological capabilities will make many aspects of estate planning easier and more convenient in the future, both nationally and in Texas. Digital services will likely serve to keep people updated and informed regarding pertinent estate planning documents, and to guide them accordingly. One caveat is important, however: the technology has not replaced the traditional need to have the one-on-one guidance of experienced legal and financial professionals in devising appropriate and effective plans. Additionally, the vast majority of states still require the original hard copies of a will and other documents, with hand-written signatures. 

Source:, "Is a digital last will and testament right for you?", Constance Gustke, Oct. 19, 2015

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