Recently, there has been a rise in electronic or digital wills. People choose to create or update their estate plan using the internet or software instead of working with an attorney in an office. These documents allow people who possibly can’t leave their homes to record their wishes and state their intentions regarding the distribution of their assets at the time of their death.
Unfortunately, executing an electronic or digital will may be convenient, but it lacks the protection and oversight provided by drafting a last will with an attorney and signing it in the presence of witnesses. If your loved one left behind an electronic will that includes terms that you don’t think represent their true intentions, that could be a warning sign of malfeasance on the part of another party.
Digital wills absolutely open the door to estate fraud
One of the important forms of oversight during traditional estate planning is the presence of an attorney. That attorney and any notary or witnesses that help authenticate the document will verify the identity of the individual creating the will. Electronic wills, even those with systems intended to prevent fraud, are easily gamed by those with an intention to create a fake estate plan or last will.
Questionable inclusions might be a sign of lack of testamentary capacity
When the terms in the estate plan don’t seem to match the stated wishes and preferences of your loved ones, that discrepancy could be a sign that your loved one wasn’t fully cognizant of what they were putting in their plan. Since there isn’t an attorney or a notary present to speak with the testator and verify that they are capable of executing this document, the potential exists for someone with diminished capacity to create an electronic will when they otherwise would not be able to do so.
An electronic will could be influenced by a third party
The terms of someone’s estate plan or last will should be a direct reflection of their wishes and preferences. Unfortunately, as people grow older and become medically dependent on caregivers or family members, the potential for someone using their position to influence someone’s estate plan increases.
If you and the other beneficiaries of an estate question the validity of a digital will, you may have the option of contesting the will in probate court.