Earlier this year, Arizona lawmakers proposed new legislation making it legal to execute “Electronic Wills”. SB1298 proposed a revision to Arizona Revised Statutes in an effort to broaden what Arizona deems a “valid” Last Will and Testament. Under this proposed legislation, not only would a video recording of a person signing their Last Will and Testament be allowed in Court as evidence, but it would also allow people to write, sign and retain their estate planning documents all in electronic format, provided the documents were “signed” in such a format that it would contain the date and time of the signature and easily detect any alteration to the document. The document must also include a copy of the signer’s government issued identification and some sort of biometric identification, such as a fingerprint or retinal scan.
To date, only Nevada has legalized electronic Wills. Other states, such as Illinois and Florida have introduced similar Bills. Though electronic Wills have some practical appeal for the tech-savvy generation, given the security, privacy and authenticity concerns, lawmakers hesitate to legalize this concept. Most recently, on June 26, 2017, Florida’s governor vetoed the Florida Electronic Wills Act. If passed, Florida’s Bill would have authorized the creation of electronic Wills and would have provided that the execution of the Wills be witnessed and notarized through the use of “remote technology”.
As younger generations who regularly communicate with and utilize technological gadgets enter into adulthood we anticipating seeing an increased demand for an electronic Will statute, but for now, Electronic Will legislation just seems to generate debate among stakeholders who seek to find the right balance between providing safeguards to protect the Will-making process while also incorporating technological options that make Wills financially accessible to the general population. The biggest concern is that Electronic Wills, if legalized, may open the most vulnerable citizens to fraud, financial exploitation, furthermore, it may “clog” the Court system as judges are faced with deciding whether or not an electronic Will is valid.
Attorneys and lawmakers alike anticipate seeing an increase in such proposed Bills, perhaps in the years that come coupled with technological advancements, Electronic Will legislation will pass. Until then, we’ll just rely on pen and ink signatures.
-Rachel S. Zaslow, Esq.