Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Importance of Paper in a Digital World

Image by M. Gustafson Gervasi, 2013

Paper -- it is becoming a relic in many parts of modern society.  Thanks to the digital world, fewer and fewer people receive and/or keep hard copies of important papers.  However, in the world of estate planning, I think that is a huge mistake. 

For example, take the case of beneficiary forms associated with either life insurance policies or retirement accounts.  Routinely I advise clients to keep a hard copy of each form with their estate plan for three reasons:
  1. Printing it out and reviewing the form confirms that the form says what you think it does.  If not, and someone is named that you no longer wished named, you have a chance to make updates. Remember, what is on the form controls no matter what a will says;
  2. The form is proof that at one time you did indeed have a beneficiary listed, directing the asset to an heir outside of the probate process.  Organizations can and do loose beneficiary forms.  Do not count on them to keep good records; and
  3. The forms create a paper trail for loved ones about the various locations at which you held assets.  Along with the digital age as come job and career jumping.  It is not uncommon for a person to die with five or more different retirement accounts, all at different institutions.  Those forms clearly show your loved ones where to go when needed.
Please remember a blog post does not constitute legal advice an attorney client relationship.  A post is designed to spur thought and discussion, but cannot be relied on given the ever changing nature of our legal world.  Thank you for reading, and please consult an attorney for guidance on your specific situation.

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