October 31, 2018
I’m a death lawyer. I do estate planning and probate law. My area of the law is the poster child for the role of good, old-fashioned paper. Not only do my clients walk away with paper, they walk away with a binder ready to hold, yes, more paper.
It has a lot to how I approach getting legal affairs in order. For me, it isn’t merely about walking away with a single document. It’s about documenting what you have, setting up the most efficient transfers, and communicating all of that to the people that will have to get it done when the time comes. That’s where a binder comes in. It’s the place to refer to as new assets are obtained. It’s the place to put new information, like passwords to the digital world, that other people will have to know.
Ultimately, analog will remain really important for this type of work. Death law is fundamentally inter-generational. People who die span the continuum of ages and comfort with technology. But it isn’t just about the client’s know-how. The person making the documents isn’t going to be the one using it. Paper doesn’t need a password, a program or app. No one needs training in how to access paper.
Besides, the law doesn’t yet recognize digital documents with the same standing as originally signed paper. Digital copies can be a helpful companion to, but for the foreseeable future, isn’t dethroning paper as the go-to medium for getting your affairs in order.
Jennifer Gumbel is an estate planning and probate lawyer in Austin, Minnesota. She takes her morbid nerd-dom to another level by talking about how to organize your after life, with the website An Organized (after)Life and the podcast, An Organized (after)Life, which you can find on the website, Spreaker and ITunes. You can also find her on Instagram with pics on death organizing and small town Minnesota life at the handle @jengumbel.