Can you trust an online will?

Planning for the future and ensuring your loved ones are taken care of is an important responsibility. It can also be stressful and time consuming. Online wills have emerged as a convenient and accessible tool that does away with some of the barriers of traditional estate planning.
Can You Trust an Online Will?

However, as with anything new, you’ll want to ensure that the process is one you can trust. If you have an online will prepared, does it have the same validity as a traditional paper will?

First, it’s important to understand the traditional ways of verifying a will and then you can understand what online wills have changed – and what they haven’t.

Traditionally, a will is verified by confirming the signature of the deceased. This can be done by a hand-writing expert, but this is an exceptional circumstance. Generally, it is done by having two individuals witness the will and be available to testify that they did indeed witness the deceased individual sign the will. For law offices, this requires that the lawyer and assistant confirm the identity of the will-maker by reviewing government ID, however, lawyers have been fooled by fake ID before and will be again. Sometimes a witness passes away or cannot be found and issues can arise if there are questions about the validity of the will.

In the digital process, the primary change is the nature of the signature. Rather than having a ‘wet’ signature with a pen, the will maker signs digitally on the computer. This actually has advantages over the traditional form, apart from convenience, because there is more information retained in the document about when the will maker signed, the email they used to access the document, and the witnesses’ information. Additionally, there is no singular original will. All copies of the online will qualify as originals.

The role of witnesses remains generally the same, except they observe the signature in the will-maker’s ‘electronic presence,’ ie. via videoconference, rather than in their physical presence and the will-maker shares their screen to show they are signing the document. Like a traditional will, if there are questions about its validity, it will largely come down to the witnesses’ testimony about observing the signing of the will. At Sage Hill Law, we ensure that screen captures are taken of the signing appointment so there is no question about who ultimately signed the will.

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Disclaimer: This blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial or legal advice. Consult with qualified professionals to create a personalized estate plan suitable for your specific circumstances.

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