Life in the digital age is both easier and more complicated. The same is true when it comes to estate planning. Not too long ago, a physical safety deposit box at the bank was all it took to safeguard important financial documents. Now, much of that information is online and guarded by numerous passwords — setting up a potential mess for heirs to sort through.

At death, a person's estate goes through the probate process and can't legally be accessed until an executor is named, according to Leanna Hamill, a Massachusetts estate-planning and elder-law attorney. However, things get more complicated if you become incapacitated because someone will need entry to your financial life — online and on paper — to make sure things run smoothly when you can't.

“Everything's getting more electronic these days,” says Leslie Corcoran, CFP and founder of Family First Financial Planning in Florida. The Internet has made more financial options available for estate planning, and attorneys often store wills and trusts online. This means information and accounts could be scattered across the digital universe. “I have clients who have CDs all over the place,” says Corcoran, adding that when someone dies or becomes incapacitated, if you don't know what they have, “you'll have to go through every piece of documentation and pray they were organized.”

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