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Risks associated with using emerging e-will programs

In this increasingly technological era, many people would probably assume that an individual recording his or her last will and testament by stepping in front of a webcam is legal. However, in Florida, it's not.

During the past few years, tech companies have begun lobbying Florida legislators to modify state law to legalize video recorded wills. While each time such a bill has won a majority vote, when it's gotten to the governor's desk, it's been vetoed.

One reason that Florida's governor has failed to give the bill his seal of approval centers around his concern that it's another avenue for the state's ever-growing senior population to be preyed upon. He also fears that out-of-state residents will clog up the probate system with too many lawsuits. He particularly fears that this will occur if individuals in non-e-will states get left out of settlements.

He's also concerned about whether e-will software providers are capable of providing a secure way to keep these legally-binding documents out the hands of hackers. Despite the many concerns that our governor has, governors in other states such as California and Nevada have already approved the use of e-wills there.

Those lobbying to see the use of e-wills made legal nationwide argue that making it easier to record a will might positively impact the number of people who draft one. Currently only 40 percent of individuals age 45 or over ever draft them.

While many people cite the financial costs associated with drafting wills as the reason they don't have one, others simply say it's too involved to gather everyone together to properly execute it.

As the law currently stands in Florida, wills are only enforceable if they're written. It's believed that in having a tangible document a judge can review, it is difficult to misinterpret an individual's lasting sentiments.

Additional state laws require a will to be signed by the person drafting it. Some jurisdictions require either an attorney or notary to verify that the individual was of sound mind when they drafted the document as well. As for e-will companies, they note that they can continue to offer this level of protection for the video recorded wills if that's what they prefer.

It's advisable that you seek out the guidance of a Florida estate litigation attorney to ensure that your final wishes are carried out as you intend them to be.

Source: CBS Money Watch, "Get ready for your last e-will and testament," Ed Leefeldt, July 19, 2017

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