TechCrunch, a blog with its finger on the pulse of tech startups, calls online estate planning one of the hottest growth sectors. Due to COVID, estate planning websites have enjoyed a boom in 2020. Now, Silicon Valley capitalists are pouring money into these ventures. As TechCrunch reports, one of the market leaders recently received a $15 million investment.
The new industry relies on “e-wills,” which offer users the ability to cheaply create, sign and store a will online. In 2019, the Uniform Law Commission passed the Uniform Electronic Wills Act. The Act serves as a model for other states that want to make e-wills a reality. Indeed, some states have already adopted it, including the retirement and tax havens of Nevada, Florida, Arizona and…(checks notes)… Indiana? (New York is not yet on board).
I guess this is the point where we, as staid lawyers, tell you to skip those sites. Except, this isn’t that post. You can find articles like that anywhere, as our colleagues have been fighting (and generally losing) the legal template battle for years.
It’s foolish to fight technology, because technology is inevitable. Demand for cheap, online estate planning is high, especially now. And, especially among young adults who do literally everything else online.
E-Wills are Here to Stay.
Velella & Basso understands that our sweet spot is no longer drafting wills for young families with modest fortunes and straightforward plans. For those clients, we acknowledge that basic will templates, tailored to your state, could offer better value.
Instead, we see our role as probate and estate counselors evolving adjacent to the technology. Tech has changed our focus to the “back-end” of probate and estate law. This might include helping a family member prove a will is valid under a state’s law. Or, administering an estate where a will is lost because it was not properly safeguarded by a DIY testator.
Unsurprisingly, we have also seen an uptick in estate litigation with the advent of DIY wills.
We would only expect that trend to increase if and when New York adopts e-wills. As in all arenas, new technologies are certain to fuel litigation. Indeed, estate planning is no different. Unsupervised, online will executions invite questions of fraud and mental capacity, which are bases to have a will voided.
Lately, people have taken to using the expression “the new normal”. Well, e-wills are the “new normal” in estate planning. Soon, they’ll be coming to your state. If you think your testamentary affairs can be handled with a simple template, you’re probably right. And we’ll be here to provide any other counsel you might need, or to pick up the pieces later.
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