The New Organizational Structure for Estate Planning

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Nobody wants to contemplate their own mortality, but just like taxes, death is an inevitability that we all have to face. Yet studies have shown that more than 50 percent of Americans don't have even the most basic estate planning documents needed to protect themselves and their heirs in case of an unexpected demise.

Those that do often have physical documents squirreled away in filing cabinets or safe deposit boxes with no mechanism in place to alert the appropriate people of their existence when needed.

A new company -- Estate Assist -- aims to change that by allowing customers to create a secure, cloud-based digital safe deposit box where they can upload, organize and automatically distribute all the critical information and documents related to their estate. Such as:
  • Financial assets. Bank, brokerage and retirement accounts.
  • Digital assets. Email, Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts.
  • Life documents. Wills, powers of attorney, life insurance policies, birth certificates and deeds.
The idea came to Estate Assist founder and CEO Woody Levin on the heels of a family tragedy. "I watched my father struggling to find paperwork after my grandmother passed away," said Levin. "I decided there had to be a better way for all of us to organize our assets. Then it occurred to me that it's not just end-of-life critical to have fast access to key information -- it's day-to-day critical for all of us, at any age, to have one safe place to store our assets and important documents."

Smart Planning

To be sure, other companies offer secure online safe deposit boxes, but they generally provide only "dumb" storage, where the customer essentially dumps their documents without any structure or action plan.

By contrast, Estate Assist provides simple onboarding tutorials that prompt users as to what types of documents they may want to secure, who they want to designate to receive those documents and the time and circumstances in which those designees will gain access. The cost is $4.95 a month.

This process has been made even easier by a partnership with Intuit. Estate Assist users can input their main bank account information into their dashboard, and Intuit's powerful API will search and locate other financial accounts to be added to the digital safe.

One question that immediately comes up is security. How can you trust that all your important information is safe after being uploaded into the cloud? The company has gone to great lengths to ensure that the private details of their users stays private. All data transfers to and from the site are protected by 256-bit encryption technology, the same type used among financial institutions. Once in the cloud, documents are stored according to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act compliance standards developed by the government to safeguard individual's health and medical records.

Organizing and Documenting as It Happens

Levin says that users can also upload videos, photos and personal communications that can only be accessed after they pass. This gives Estate Assist an added dimension that goes beyond just storing financial documents, allowing users to create a virtual time-capsule of memories and messages.

The most obvious demographic for the product are baby boomers who have already entered the life stage where estate planning is one of the foremost financial considerations. But Levin also thinks that the product will have an appeal to millennials who have grown up with technology and are comfortable using it in all aspects of their lives.

In either case, the company hopes that users will also adopt Estate Assist for organizing and documenting significant life events in real time. "Whether it's marriage, a new baby, retirement, a work transfer overseas or military deployment," said Levin, "the most important thing each one of us can do is to keep our financial assets, digital assets, and important documents safe and secure -- and when we want, make those documents easily accessible to our loved ones."

The Lund Loop is a free once-weekly curated slice of what I am writing, reading and hearing about in finance, tech, music, pop culture, humor and the good life. But not sports or knitting ... ever!
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