Wills are very important legal documents. They are also very old fashioned in the sense that just about everywhere in the civilized world there must be a paper document with a signature on it made by the person who has made the will. You would think that in this day and age of electronic communication and data storage that there would be an opportunity for electronic will making. And there is, right here in Nevada! Nevada allows electronic wills, as long as when the will is made, that as well as an electronic signature a unique identifier of the person making the will (the testator) is added. This could be a retinal scan or a fingerprint, something that is unique to that person.
Nevada’s law on electronic wills has been around since 2001 and the law is still quite controversial. Many other states, as well as jurisdictions overseas, have toyed with the idea, but have stopped short at changing the law. Florida came close earlier this year, but the bill was vetoed by the state’s Governor, Rick Scott.
Why wills are important
Wills are documents that provide details of how a person’s individual property should be distributed after death. It can involve hundreds of dollars worth or millions. What goes into a will can affect the futures f significant numbers of people, so it is important that the testator’s wishes are genuinely recorded are taken into account. The problems arise when a person dies who hasn’t made a will or there is a genuine concern about the validity of a will that has been purported to have been made. When a person dies intestate (hasn’t made a will), then that person’s personal assets are decided by a probate court. The court may also have to be involved if there is a dispute over the will.
Generally, when a will is made (with Nevada being the sole exception), two witnesses must be present to verify that the testator’s signature is genuine and that the signature has not been made under duress or coercion. The original document, as well as copies of it, is then kept safe, in a vault, or in an attorney’s safe.
It is easy to see the problems that might arise if a will has not been prepared correctly. It does take time to make a will and many people avoid doing it, especially when they are young. Some older people frequently change their mind, and may make corrections or amendments to the will that might not be contrary to their original wishes.
The benefits of an electronic will
The benefits of an electronic will are similar to any form of electronic data storage. It is far quicker for a person to make an electronic will online and organize safe and secure data storage of their intentions than making a traditional pen and paper will. An electronic will could theoretically be made when a person realizes that they might die sooner rather than later and when a traditional will has yet to be made. Theoretically, an electronic will can also be modified quickly, much more readily than changing a traditional will.
The potential drawbacks of an electronic will
The advantages of an electronic will are also its potential disadvantages. Many people can remember the recent U.S. presidential election when it was alleged that electronic voting may have been tampered with by foreign hackers in order to influence the election. This has not been proved, but equally has not been totally discounted either. The main misgivings about electronic wills and electronic signatures that have prevented its uptake elsewhere are that they can be forged or manipulated too easily by people who may have a vested interest in changing a will to benefit themselves financially. Although this has not been shown to be a real problem yet in Nevada, it is not difficult to imagine the scenario of a potential beneficiary hiring a competent hacker to alter a will in their favor. All very twenty first century!
The other disadvantage of an electronic will is that it may be made by software that becomes obsolescent and that the secure storage of the will may also become obsolescent, making retrieval of the will problematic. In Nevada, to circumvent this, a separate hardcopy of the will is meant to be printed and left in safe custody in the event that the electronic version disappears into the ether.
If you are worried about your own will and prefer to use a method that suits you, the best solution is to talk to a family law attorney here in Nevada and discuss your options. You can make an appointment with the law firm of Pintar Albiston by ringing 702-685-5366.
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