We are in a changing world which also affects Estate Planning. One of the innovations involves electronic Wills which has now been adopted in four states (Arizona, Indiana, Nevada and Florida on July 1st).
The Will is created and signed on a digital device such as a computer or tablet. This is a Simple Will, not a
Living Trust and may be appropriate for smaller estates including personal items. Also, they could be a convenient alternative for people who are homebound with health problems or needing to update a Will on short notice as witnesses can observe the Will being signed remotely via webcam. However, there are potential risks to the eWills warns Texas Tech law professor, Gerry W. Beyer.
(Continued from Establishing Trust Together Newsletter)
1. Conflict in laws could invalidate the Will. For example, remote witnessing is allowed in Nevada and will be allowed in Florida but not in Arizona and Indiana.
2. Imprecise language or lack of clarity in the Will leading to Court intervention.
3. Leaving specific assets to children which are no longer owned by the parent at death causing an unintentional disinheritance.
4. Nullification or revoking the Will: Paper can be shredded but is a Will voided if it still exists in the digital trash can?
5. Proving undue influence or duress: How would a concerned or contesting beneficiary prove that there was another person present at the time of signing exerting pressure or intimidation when there are no actual witnesses present.
6. How would you know that this is the actual finger of the Testator/Testatrix signing the Will? Have you ever signed something with your finger? Does it look anything like your written signature?
7. What if the Testator/Testatrix moves to a state that doesn’t accept eWills and never contacts an attorney?
8. Estates left in Wills of any kind over $150,000 require probate in California.
Summary: Simple eWills may be advantageous for people who live in places far removed from a law office or are unable to travel because of health problems. But there are potential areas of concern which could make eWills problematic and lend to Court proceedings.