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ZokuVault is a virtual safety deposit box for estate planning information. (See, it says so right on the website.) Which makes sense, because all the things people used to place in safety deposit boxes are now mostly virtual items: bank accounts are electronic, so are documents.
The idea behind ZokuVault is that all those electronic documents related to estate planning are in disparate places. That means that when Granny kicks it, finding all her stuff is a nightmare. ZokuVault makes it possible for families to organize financial and legal information for elderly relatives — but the best use of ZokuVault is as a “whole family” file repository, where relevant financial information is maintained and updated across generations. Using a system like this makes it infinitely easier to, say, pass on a family business and manage trust property, including for planning around look-back periods relevant to long-term care planning.
(In case you’re wondering, “zoku” is Japanese for family.)
The biggest gripe about modern technology (from a society that once used rotary dial telephones) relates to usability. Folks these days have so little patience and are so busy that an application has to be immediately usable to hold value. Fortunately, ZokuVault packs everything needed to manage one’s most essential personal information into an efficient, immediately recognizable interface.
A highly navigable dashboard collates financial account information, estate planning documents, insurance documents and tax information. A document repository is available, for a comprehensive view of all files. Related contacts can be stored in ZokuVault as well. Account holders can share files and folders with others, and adjust permissions settings as needed. Attorneys, accountants and other vendors can be added so that they can upload relevant documents to a user’s account. Also, there is a “Shared With Me” tab, which will be familiar to users of Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive.
As you might suspect from a system intended to secure the most personal of personal information, ZokuVault represents a secure solution — Al Gore’s lockbox come to life. ZokuVault encrypts for storage, at upload and at download. Password creation requirements observe a level of complexity, and multifactor authentication is available. In addition, access controls are available for managing third-party users. Read more at Zoku’s security page.
Don’t worry, I did not forget that this review is for lawyers — even if I’ve been writing about consumers of legal services instead, for the last 400 words or so.
While ZokuVault’s marketing focuses on warehousing estate planning information, there are lawyers across broad swaths of practice areas who manage sensitive information. Any of that data could be stored at ZokuVault. If your representations relate to sensitive data, you must counsel clients to keep their sensitive information secure. It’s a matter of fact that lawyers can only protect the data they have. But it’s also true that clients can endanger their own cases with faulty protection, or lack of any protection, over the data they maintain.
So, if you are recommending that your clients take steps to secure their own data, ZokuVault is an option. You could then upload client files during or at the close of representation to ZokuVault while providing a preferred, simple and consistent transfer method. Keep in mind this may affect fee agreement clauses focused on technology provision and data security.
Whether or not you include ZokuVault in your firm’s client service offerings, it is essential to discuss data security options with your clients, especially those with whom you will have long-term relationships, involving the storage and maintenance of sensitive information. In an environment of market saturation, lawyers must provide value beyond traditional substantive expertise to separate themselves from their competitors. Utilizing effective client portals, featuring appropriate security, is one way to mark yourself as an elite and comprehensive service provider.
And, ZokuVault’s pricing matrix reflects that opportunity, as it offers three distinct options. In addition to a basic monthly fee for users, a corporate account is available for law firms and others who would use the software to share information with clients, who can then view their files for free.
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