Sunday, December 1, 2019
Technology seems to be advancing every day, and estate planning strategies have been struggling to keep up. One tool that may be approaching the modern era is the electronic will. An electronic will, or e-will, is one that recognizes the traditional formalities of a will when they are in an electronic format. An e- will can be written in an electronic medium, electronically signed and even electronically validated - no printing necessary for the signature to be done in ink.
The Uniform Law Commission (ULC), a group of law professors and practitioners who draft prototype state laws, approved the Uniform Electronic Wills Act, also known as the E-Wills Act. Usually, most states adopt a law within a few years after the ULC approves it. Florida is definitely ahead of the game, as the state passed an e-wills law in 2017, but the governor vetoed it for not having enough safeguards against fraud. A new version was enacted in September and will go into effect in Florida in 2020.
An e-will must still be in written form, thus no audio or video recording will suffice. An e-will also will not be recognized or considered valid when the testator is someone defined as vulnerable (such as nursing home residents), because the potential for fraud or undue influence is considered to be too great. Under Florida's law, an e-will be stored by a qualified custodian; therefore, saving it to your smart phone, tablet or computer is not sufficient, and to become a qualified custodian takes a hefty investment in a secure infrastructure. It should be noted, however, that the Uniform E-Wills Act does not contain the qualified custodian requirement.
See Bob Carlson, Electronic Wills Are Coming, Financial Hobby, November 29, 2019.
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.