One of the biggest challenges for an executor on the death of a testator is locating all of the estate’s assets. The executor has an obligation to the beneficiaries to secure the deceased’s assets in a timely fashion; however, his or her ability to do so may be entirely dependent on whether the deceased left an organized paper trail behind.
The dot com business revolution has now spawned e-services with catchy names such as PrivateMatters.com and YouDeparted.com. YouDeparted.com, for instance, acts as "an electronic safety-deposit box". For an annual fee, the site will store critical information that an executor would require access to in order to administer an estate: the location of the Will, a list of internet passwords, the combination to the home safe, etc. As a member of one of these service providers, a subscriber can enter email messages timed for delivery after his or her death. When the subscriber dies, the "virtual executor system" sends an email to the subscriber as a safeguard. After no reply is received, the data is delivered to a designated surviving recepient; presumably, that person will be the executor of the subscriber’s estate. While the subscriber will typically entrust financial details to the service, it is noted that such sites may also provide a means for a testator to convey the precatory advice for such things as the care of a pet that would otherwise accompany the Will in hard copy as a Direction to the executor.
The long term viability of such services is a matter for debate. While it is interesting to see business innovations which impact upon our area of the law, they remain susceptible to the security concerns that plague all on-line businesses. This is a greater than usual concern when the subscriber is entrusting the system with all of his most sensitive financial details. Still, there will always be on-line devotees willing to have the benefit of this type of service over plain old pen and paper.
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