While most adults believe that wills are important, less than half of them actually have one, according to a recent survey, the chief reason being that “I have not gotten around to it yet.” Designed to make the process of creating a will easier and more accessible for all, electronic wills have previously required printing and signing on the dotted line in front of a witness. While e-signatures are common and widespread, e-notarization is not.
However, Indiana and Nevada have passed laws permitting e-signatures while Arizona and Florida are expected to adopt such legislation in 2020, with more states to follow. This sets the stage for expanded use of electronic wills that can be wholly completed online.
The Uniform Electronic Wills Act was adopted by the Uniform Law Commission to create a model for executing a will with online technology that other states can follow. In essence, those who wish to create an electronic will could do so online, then connect with a notary via video chat. The notary can talk with the individual and ask any pertinent questions before notarizing the will and returning it. The electronic will is constituted as valid, without the testator ever having to be in the physical presence of the notary.
Benefits of electronic wills include access, availability, convenience and simplicity. No matter where you live or what your schedule, you can create a valid will on your own time table.
Concerns with electronic wills center on fraud – particularly the possibility of undue influence or duress in the creation of the document. Likewise, without the advice of an attorney, individuals could use boilerplate wills that lack the details or specificity that their estate requires. A one-size-fits all will, naturally, will not work for everyone. Issues with revocation and storage also remain to be further determined.
At present, electronic wills might be ideal for younger people – only one in five Millennials have a will – or those with fewer assets and complications. With more states expected to adopt electronic will legislation in the coming years, options for online wills are anticipated to grow as well.
Do you have a topic suggestion for an article in a future issue of Sims Insights newsletter? We would love to hear from you. Share your ideas here.