In the not-too-distant past, paper documents were the way to go. Everything was printed in black and white or completed by hand. Now, as our world becomes more digital, it’s more common, almost required, for our documents to be done completely online. We can often sign document electronically, without being physically present. In this overwhelmingly futuristic landscape, estate planning remains one of the bastions of paper dominance. However, this may be changing. Lawmakers across the country, including Virginia, are taking a hard look at allowing people to use electronic Wills.
Electronic Wills 101
There are differences of opinion as to what constitutes an electronic Will. Essentially, though, it’s a Will that exists in digital form that has been electronically signed by the testator, notary public, and witnesses.
State laws vary on this issue. At this time, Nevada is the only state that considers electronic Wills to be valid. The Florida legislature approved the Florida Electronics Wills Act, but the law was vetoed by Governor Scott.
The Uniform Law Commission, an association devoted to standardizing state laws, has been working on the legality of electronic Wills. While their recommendations are not binding, they could make it easier for states to handle issues like electronic Wills.
Virginia does not allow electronic Wills at this time, but lawmakers have been working on a bill that reconciles our digital world with our need for privacy and security.
In 2017, the Virginia legislature introduce a bill that would “validate and regulate e-wills.” Unlike traditional Wills, where the parties signing the Will must be in the same room at the same time, the e-signing of electronic Wills would be permitted. However, a party would need to serve as custodian of the Will and collect and maintain identification documents for all signatories. Other rules and restrictions apply.
At this time, it looks like the proposed bill, HB 1643, is in a holding pattern.
The Future of E-Wills
A Last Will and Testament is an important document, and a fraudulent Will can have lasting and devastating consequences. Some of the red flags raised about e-wills include:
- Potential fraud;
- Potential for exploitation of vulnerable parties;
- Difficulty authenticating signatures; and
- Difficulty safeguarding and preserving the electronic Will itself.
Lawmakers may be waiting to see how Nevada’s electronic will law plays out. However, although Nevada law first permitted electronic Wills in 2001, they are rarely used.
Get Expert Advice.
At Dillon Law Group, PLC, the attorneys work with you to evaluate your needs and develop an estate plan that fits your life. Please contact us at 757-962-4796 to set up an appointment or use the Contact Form on our website, https://www.dillonlawgrp.com/. Our offices are located in Virginia Beach and Newport News.