At a time when it seems everything is going electronic, virtual, or both, it may not come as a surprise that the phenomenon has carried over into the area of estate planning. Just a few years back, it would not even be possible to create an electronic will, powers of attorney, or advance directives. However, several US states have enacted either the Uniform Electronic Wills Act or statutes that are relatively similar to it, including Florida, Maryland, and DC. Legislation is also pending in a few states, and it is likely that many others will soon follow.
The convenience of electronic estate planning is certainly attractive, and there are many additional benefits as well. Keep in mind that retaining legal help is critical for handling any estate planning matter, and there is additional complexity when you seek to work out the arrangements electronically. An estate planning attorney will guide you, but some key points are useful.
Electronic estate planning centers on witness requirements.
In states that have enacted laws on electronic wills, powers of attorney, and other estate planning documents, the witness requirements are affected. Essentially, the statutes recognize the validity of the document when the notary or witnesses play their respective roles through an electronic channel. The details vary by state, but there are requirements regarding who needs to be present on each end of the virtual conversation.
The criteria for valid execution of estate planning documents remain in place in terms of the signor’s state of mind, acting of their own free will, the number of witnesses, and others. These requirements vary by jurisdiction.
Electronic estate planning may focus on additional factors.
Depending on the jurisdiction, there may be options for electronic storage wills, powers of attorney, and advance directives. The original, effective version would be archived, with electronic signatures of the witnesses and notary, and available to those with an access key. The paperwork could also be sent securely to financial institutions, and most solutions handling health care documents are HIPAA compliant.
You or a family member may benefit from electronic estate planning.
One of the most important advantages is being able to serve the needs of someone who is homebound or otherwise limited in terms of mobility. These individuals can still create and
execute legally binding documents, though there are special protections in place to ensure the person has mental capacity. For instance, the laws might require the individual to answer questions to confirm that they are of sound mind.
Discuss Electronic and Virtual Arrangements with an Estate Planning Lawyer Today
The above overview is informative, but note that the laws on electronic wills and powers of attorney are different in every jurisdiction. Failing to meet the requirements could thwart your estate planning intentions, so legal help is critical. Francois Williams Legal LLC is prepared to advise you on estate planning arrangements via virtual and electronic channels, so we are ready to serve your needs. Please contact us to schedule a consultation right away to learn more.