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Monday, August 7, 2017

Paperless Estate Plan | It May Not Be As Futuristic As You’d Think



Summary: The law can be slow to change and respond to technology, but change is often inevitable. Today, some states have passed, or are considering, laws that would allow citizens to make electronic wills. The emergence of a paperless option in estate planning may be a benefit to many. This emerging change is a reminder of the importance of making sure you plan for your digital assets (and digital documents,) as well as the need for occasional estate plan reviews to make sure your plan is still up-to-date in light of any new laws created in your state.

The law is sometimes very slow to respond to, an catch up with, technology. Some legal experts might argue that, in some ways, this “is a feature, not a bug.” The law’s resistance to change can, in some aspects, be a valuable component of the stability that is essential to any system of laws.

Sometimes, though, change is good (and inevitable,) even in the law. The change brought about by technology has even reached estate planning. Earlier this year, two bills were presented to the Florida Legislature that would make electronic (a/k/a paperless) wills valid in the Sunshine State. Similar bills are pending in other states. Nevada has already passed a law recognizing electronic wills there.

These laws contain various provisions dictating what’s required to make an electronic will valid. In Florida, for example, the will must “exist in an electronic record” and be electronically signed by the testator and the witnesses. The law would also include details about what constitutes a valid electronic signature.

The emergence of an electronic option for your will (or, depending on the evolution of your state’s laws, other estate planning documents,) is a strong reminder of a couple of important rules of thumb about estate planning in the 2010s and beyond. The first of these is the ever-expanding role electronic and digital technology plays in all aspects of our lives, including our estate plans. Many people bank online, manage investments online, pay bills online, keep up with friends and family online, seek (and apply for) employment online, or even meet their future spouses online.

The internet and digital technology are a bigger part of our lives than ever before. Keeping that in mind, it is more essential than ever to make sure that you include a plan for your digital assets in your estate plan. If you become incapacitated or die, the loved ones whom you’ve chosen to handle your affairs will need a way to deal with the things that require usernames, passwords and online interaction, in addition to the things that require paper documents and face-to-face interaction. In the near future, your digital planning may include, not only a plan for your digital assets but also leaving instructions to your executor regarding how to access your electronic will, as well.   

Another thing that this evolution reminds us is that the laws, while sometimes slow to change, do change with some frequency. That is but one of many vital reasons why periodic estate plan reviews are essential to the maintenance of your plan. A change in the law may have a direct impact on your plan. It may mean changing or replacing documents in your law to avoid newly created potential pitfalls. Alternately, it may mean making changes to take full advantage of new opportunities created by the new law. Either way, your estate plan review can help you spot these issues and take the action your plan needs.       

Summary: The law can be slow to change and respond to technology, but change is often inevitable. Today, some states have passed, or are considering, laws that would allow citizens to make electronic wills. The emergence of a paperless option in estate planning may be a benefit to many. This emerging change is a reminder of the importance of making sure you plan for your digital assets (and digital documents,) as well as the need for occasional estate plan reviews to make sure your plan is still up-to-date in light of any new laws created in your state.


This article is published by the Legacy Assurance Plan and is intended for general informational purposes only. Some information may not apply to your situation. It does not, nor is it intended, to constitute legal advice. You should consult with an attorney regarding any specific questions about probate, living probate or other estate planning matters. Legacy Assurance Plan is an estate planning services-company and is not a lawyer or law firm and is not engaged in the practice of law. For more information about this and other estate planning matters visit our website at www.legacyassuranceplan.com


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