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Is a Digital Will Legal?

Will challengesIs a digital will or ‘e-will’ as it is commonly referred to a legal estate planning document?  

The new, bleeding edge technology does not yet conform to most state statutes.  Only Nevada currently has a statute governing these wills, and the governor of Florida recently vetoed a proposed electronic wills statute. However, some state courts have addressed the issue. For example, the Tennessee Court of Appeals affirmed the admission to probate a Will that was written with a word processing program and signed by both the witnesses and the testator typing their names at the end of the document.  Wow!

There are myriad questions that need to be addressed before one can have confidence that the document expresses the wish of the testator.  For example: how is the will executed? How is it stored and how is the integrity of the document assured?  How do you revoke an electronic will or admit it to probate? There’s also the issue of electronic signatures—from scanning an image of a signature to encryption.

What happens when the witnesses and the testator aren’t in the same physical space but are connected via the Internet? The problem is that the testator doesn’t know what the witness is viewing.

As far as storing and retrieving the electronic will, some say it will fall under the provisions of the laws governing fiduciary access to digital assets.

There are numerous questions and obstacles to the e-will, and not very many answers.  However, with smart contracts and other technology, we will likely get there one day.

The Uniform Laws Commission has appointed a committee to draft a uniform electronic wills act—because it looks like the electronic will is inevitable.  More time than not, DYI guarantees 'fools for clients'.

Reference: New York Law Journal (March 6, 2018) “Wills in the Digital Age”

 

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We've been putting together as many resources as possible so that we can continue to help:

  • If you’re a current client with a signing appointment or a prospective client with a consultation and would prefer that meeting take place in your own home, we can accomplish that with a little bit of pre-planning on our part and with the addition of a laptop, smartphone, tablet or other computer in your home to facilitate this virtual meeting. For those of you that need to sign legal documents, that too can be accomplished with the use of a webcam (FaceTime etc.), so that we can witness and electronically notarize all of your important legal documents.
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Coronavirus/Covid-19
Update to our Process

The unprecedented coronavirus pandemic has taken our entire country by surprise. We understand how difficult this time is for America’s businesses and families.  However, we believe it is vitally important that we make every effort possible to continue to offer solutions that avoid disrupting our important partnership with you, your family and friends.  As you know, estate planning is not something that should wait for a more convenient time, therefore the opportunity to address your important goals both during and after this crisis should not wait.  To that end, we have added the option of a ‘virtual consultation’ to our office process.  You will now have a choice of either meeting with us in our office or in the comfort of your own home.