For a long time, people trying to leave behind a specific estate plan would hand-write their wishes for their legacies. Doing so ensured that people could validate their wishes by verifying their handwriting.
The use of witnesses and notaries has diminished the reliance on handwritten documents, but people typically still produce physical estate plans. People sign documents drafted by their attorney to leave behind specific instructions for after their deaths.
Now, electronic wills have started to become popular. People use a digital template or electronic document to leave behind instructions about their last wishes. These digital documents are accessible anywhere and easy to update. Are electronic wills better tools for testators than hand-written or printed documents?
Electronic estate plans are more susceptible to fraud
As institutions increasingly try to adapt to the online lives people lead, the systems utilized for electronic estate planning may change. As of right now, however, electronic wills are very vulnerable to acts of fraud or to allegations of fraud.
Illinois has tried to embrace this new technology while also working to protect testators and older adults from undue influence and fraud destroying their legacies. The state updated laws in 2021 and will allow electronic wills, as well as electronic witnesses via online video feed and even digital notarization.
In theory, these changes will allow those unable to travel or meet with an attorney or notary in-person to create an electronic last will as valid as any physical paperwork. What actually occurs as the state starts using this system remains to be seen.
Exploring different estate planning tools could lead to better solutions for your current needs.