Saturday, October 19, 2019
One of the pillars of executing a valid will has been signing a physical document with actual ink by the testator, usually in front of witness unless it was a fully handwritten will or in exigent circumstances. But now the convenience of technology may be lending itself to estate planning by allowing wills to be fully electronic, including the signature.
Nevada and Indiana are ahead of the game by already allowing e-signatures, and Florida and Arizona are set to follow next year. The Uniform Law Commission, a nonprofit organization that proposes laws for states to adopt, drafted the Uniform Electronic Will Act as a potential model for states, and several states seem inclined to do so. Electronic wills are not new, with websites such as LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer offering will services. But the testator was still required to print the document off to put their signature on it with real, tangible ink, and then stored in a safe place rather than uploading it because that act would invalidate the will. “We actually don’t allow you to re-upload it because a facsimile isn’t a legitimate will,” said Dave Hanley, founder and chief executive of Tomorrow, another company that walks the user through creating a will
The Uniform Law Commission’s proposed e-will bill aims to push states to allow the validity of wills that have been electronically signed and stored in the cloud. Trust & Will, an online start-up, helps people create fully digital wills and trust documents in Nevada and Indiana and is ready to roll out its service as other states pass legislation. But some states may be hesitant and insist in editing the Commission's language to suit their own citizen's desires. As always, it would be prudent to consult with an estate planning professional to see if an electronic will with an e-signature can be accomplished in your jurisdiction.
See Paul Sullivan, A Will Without Ink and Paper, New York Times, October 18, 2019.
Special thanks to Jerome Borison for bringing this article to my attention.