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Deciding About Electronic Wills

I have written previously about digital assets and the growing importance of those assets within Estate Planning.  There is much more being written about digital assets as they relate to Estate Planning.

Digital assets are electronic and recently The Colorado Bar Association is taking an intense look at the issues surrounding electronic wills. What is an electronic will?  To simplify for the purpose of this article it is a will/document that is signed and stored electronically.  (Do not confuse this with an on-line  document that one can print and then file in paper form.)

The main points about electronic wills revolve around the signing, witnessing and notarizing of the electronic will. The person making the will (the testator) signs the will electronically (using a computer, tablet or other electronic device), not with pen and ink.  The witnesses (remote witnesses) sign the will electronically (and can be virtually anywhere in the world to do the signing). The will is notarized electronically and one can assume that the will is then stored electronically.

The only state at the time of this writing that permits electronic wills is Nevada. According to an article in Technologist * “Nevada was the first state to authorize electronic wills, and includes safeguards for authentication. It requires that electronic wills be authenticated through finger prints, retinal scan, voice recognition, facial recognition, digital signature or other unique authentication process.”

Do electronic wills simplify the process of making a will? For those who are comfortable with technology and the concept of electronic wills, probably.

Does an electronic will afford adequate protection/privacy/security for the testator? That question remains to be answered. There are matters of safekeeping, privacy, storage and custodianship of an electronic will.

Is an electronic will secure and can it offer the same legal protections as having a paper/hard copy document? That depends upon technology advancements and ongoing legislation.

Can electronic wills stand up to the test of revisions, codicils, and legal challenges from beneficiaries? The jury is still out and each state will be working through legislation on the topic.

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* Will Electronic Wills Be Legal Soon?  By William Vogeler, Esq.  (March 23, 2017)