electronic wills

The Pros, Cons and Future of Electronic Wills

Albert Einstein may have been a genius but he had his quirks. He was once quoted as saying that “it has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”

Considering all the new developments we have at our disposal (such as those adorable food delivery robots and Amazon’s Alexa), this stands to be true. Technology has been integrated into every facet of our lives. Slowly but surely, it has made its way into estate planning.

Developments that facilitate automation of processes for estate planning lawyers, trustees, grantors, probate courts, etc. are paramount for paving a way for more efficient systems. One of the latest leaps estate planning has made in terms of technology is electronic wills or e-wills.

  • The Uniform Law Commission

    In 2019, the 128th annual meeting was held by the Uniform Law Commission. It was in this meeting where the current state of e-wills was changed. The Uniform Electronic Wills Act (UEWA) was passed in this meeting. This means that estate planning lawyers and grantors will have an option to create, sign, stores their wills in the cloud – at least in some states.

    Currently, four states are allowing some form an e-will. They have recognized their use in certain circumstances. THE UEWA will help in further defining their position within the state’s law.

    It is expected that other states will follow suit and begin recognizing electronic wills as a legitimate form of estate planning. This will allow estate planning lawyers and courts to not just create but also transfer previously formed wills to be recorded and stored electronically.

    Does this mean that it will completely do away with paper wills?

    No, not really. People who created their wills on paper and have since passed away without transferring them to an electronic medium, the probate court will require the execution to be carried out in paper.

    But as electronic wills become more ubiquitous, paper wills and associated procedures may start fading out of practice in courts.

    Do electronic wills do away with other aspects of will formation?

    Not at all! The requirements for a valid will are all still in place. They just have to be executed electronically instead of on paper. Your estate planning lawyer will still have the document in formal writing and witness the signatures electronically. Also, attestation from the witnesses will be done in an electronic format.

    You can sit with an estate planning lawyer and create the will electronically with the notarization, signatures, and witnesses attesting its validity. It will be then stored on the cloud. With the millennials preferring these procedures over manual execution, what’s not good about e-wills?

    To explain the case for e-will further, here are some of the main pros and cons explained:

  • Advantages of Electronic wills

    One of the main pros is that the will doesn’t need to be in physical form. Unlike physical copies, there will be no changing of hands in e-wills. Once it’s notarized, it will be stored in a secure cloud account and that’s that.

    This also removes the risk of one potentially losing the will. There have many cases where the grantor had lost the original document due to a house move, water or fire damage, etc. Without the original will, the executor will not be able to perform their duties. This may proceed to the will being probated in probate court, which could be a long and arduous process for your loved ones.

    It’s also more shareable. You don’t have to have all your witnesses be physically present at your lawyer’s office to sign and attest the will. You’ll just have to email a copy of the will over and they’ll sign and send them back, which is of great advantage if you have a witness that has mobility issues.

    As technology is further integrated into the legal system, BAU (business as usual) processes are becoming automated. E-will can help make the probate process a lot faster.

  • The pitfalls

    Within the realm of estate planning, electronic wills seem like a revolution. Granted, that with proper regulation they can be, there are some pitfalls one needs to be aware of.

    First and foremost, the security of the file stored in the cloud is a big issue. There may be some susceptibility to security breaches, data failure, and other technical problems.

    Assuming that it will take some time for e-wills to be properly recognized in the system, problems may arise when you move to a state that only executes paper wills.

    And lastly, the whole DIY will conundrum may become a phenomenon with e-wills. In summary, the disadvantages of creating your own will without the guidance and expertise of an estate planning lawyer are enough to discourage this practice.

    Does this mean that electronic wills are overall best avoided?

    The answer is no. Proper security and regulatory systems need to be tested and enforced into estate planning laws before e-wills are adopted. For the time being, pay attention to creating a comprehensive, valid will on paper so if the time comes, it can be successfully transferred.



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