Electronic wills (E-wills) are a good example of how more areas of digital media are being produced. Electronic wills provide a unique take on how wills are constructed. E-wills are a new and improved way of making wills more accessible to the general public. Currently, only three states have passed the necessary laws to make E-wills available. These three states are Nevada, Indiana, and Arizona. Through using different interfaces, E-wills can offer a more imaginative approach when one decides to create a will. E-wills introduce more accessible functions to clients due to the ability of using a basic word document or even going more advanced and using an online template. With an E-will a lawyer’s presence isn’t always necessary compared to the physical copy. By providing clients with specific templates and accessible interfaces, E-wills change the landscape of remote legal work.
At their core, E-wills are essentially the same as a physical will. They need the testator (will maker) to sign the will and need at least two witnesses who do not benefit from the will to observe the signature. Similarly, to physical wills, E-Wills require a person to be over the age of 18 and require the signer to be sober at the time of the signing of the will. However, states may decide that different requirements are needed for E-wills to be filed properly.
Having passed the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) and the Uniform Electronic Wills Act (UEWA), Nevada, Arizona, and Indiana have energized the rise of this new will making format. UETA basically establishes the principle of legalizing electronic records and signatures. Through UETA, the Uniform Electronic Wills Act is legalized. In a simplistic manner, UEWA gives testators the capability of executing their wills legally. Both of these acts provide electronic accessibility to client’s who prefer their will to be digital. The UEWA Act essentially gives testators an ability to make probate courts give the electronic will a legal effect. Probate courts ultimately hold the jurisdiction over electronic wills.
As many would imagine, the ability to go mobile creates an immediate advantage for those wanting to create an E-will. A popular use of E-wills can come in the format of estate planning. With the ease of convenience, E-wills provide estate planners with an exceptional ease of access to submit changes to their estate arrangements at their own time. The complexities of estate planning help E-wills become more popular because of the flexibility to work remotely and to ask for assistance when needed depending on the interface of the E-will. E-wills also make estate planning seem more user-friendly since a majority of people fear the estate planning process of their wills. This is why several companies such as Trust & Wills are becoming estate planning experts. They are able to provide assistance to E-will makers when needed and are able to introduce interactive formats.
Companies such as Trust & Wills, Tomorrow.me, and Notarize.com have increasingly become popular for E-will creation. Business owners are now looking at either integrating their businesses to offer E-will features or even completely abandon their previous company’s infrastructure in order to focus strictly on E-wills. Shaun Savage, owner of Trust & Wills, is a great example of this transitioning; he went from a movie streaming service called goShare, to a will service called Trust & Wills. Trust & Wills embellishes a new frontier to will making by providing interactive features to their clients.
Trust & Wills, displays a perfect example of how E-wills can make will making appealing. They give a time standard of approximately 10 minutes that is needed to make a will through their system. Trust & Wills also presents competitive prices for will making. This competitive pricing helps promote customizable wills, state specific wills, or wills relating specifically to couples. Trust & Wills opens up a new boundary for will designers. These interactive features that Trust & Wills gives to a client helps them add more value to their will. As noted by the Co-Founder of Trust & Wills, Mitch Mitchell, he expects that estate planning will only get easier from here. Mitch Mitchell stated this in an interview with Kirk Miller of InsideHook:
InsideHook: What was the genesis of Trust & Will?
Mitch Mitchell: The co-founders, who started Trust & Will in 2017, they were all in a transitional stage in life. They had assets, they had things to think about. And the idea was, why can you pretty much do anything online — mortgages, real estate, buying clothes — but not a will? Why isn’t this easier?
So, are you just online estate lawyers?
Mitch Mitchell: I was an estate planning attorney for a decade before joining. We have a small legal team, but we’re more of a software/tech company, not a law firm. What we do is narrowly tailored — right now, we have a will, trust and guardian product, and online there’s a guided interview to ask you what’s a good fit. We also offer access to lawyers; it’s an add-on benefit. We’re more like TurboTax for wills.
Why aren’t people just doing their wills online if it’s this simple (and cheaper)?
Mitch Mitchell: Coming from a private practice, I can say that a lot of people just don’t want to think about their own mortality at all. There are difficult questions you need to answer, especially if you have kids — who do you trust as a guardian if something goes wrong? It’s interesting, because the Covid pandemic did accelerate some of this thinking and encouraged people to not put it off. A stat we like to throw out is that 60% of Americans don’t have an estate plan — our idea is to make it easy for you.
Mitch Mitchell, interview by Kirk Miller, February 16, 2022 “Why you Should Get an E-Will, Even If You’re Young”
Notarize.com, Trust & Wills, and Tomorrow.me have grown from the grounds up amongst the electronic will emergence. Notarize.com has easily become the leading online notary in the digital industry. Instead of wandering into a designated notary facility, being able to notarize your electronic will to make it official, allows for simplicity. The convenience function of E-wills makes companies such as Notarize.com blossom in the digital industry. Notarize.com empowers stylus users by integrating their interface to support mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones.
Tomorrow.me, originally founded by Dan Hanley, is another great example of how companies can create more exciting interfaces for their clients. Tomorrow.me hosted an intricate website that allowed a client to design your own will template. However, what’s important about Tomorrow.me is that they expanded the will making business and went mobile. Through their mobile application tablet and smartphone users were able to create their own wills with ease. Not only did Tomorrow.me present a great way for all users to create wills, but their mobile application also offered 24/7 customer support. You can find an example of Tomorrow.me’s mobile application here. Unfortunately, Tomorrow.me did get bought out by a life insurance company called Ethos planning in 2022. Tomorrow.me showed how accessible E-wills could be through establishing a mobile application and not just focusing on computer-based services.
E-wills, while still new, developed drastically over the last two years especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. E-wills are slowly becoming a household name and give enjoyment to those who want to make a will. While lawyers are often reluctant to accept them due to the challenges of embracing new technology and battling the old ages, E-wills will drastically sculpt a new legal practice. E-wills are not perfect by any means, especially when dealing with the potential likes of fraud or tampering. Clients are much less intimidated now from making wills because of the approachability of E-wills.