Unsigned Wills and Electronic Wills Are a Recipe for Fraud and Litigation

There is a disturbing trend in certain states regarding unsigned Wills and electronic Wills. Some states, particularly New Jersey and Michigan, have now accepted an unsigned Will for probate, claiming that it was “harmless error” that caused the Will not to be signed. Other states have accepted an electronic Will for probate, claiming that a Will drafted on an iPad was valid, even though there is no “signature” or witnesses.

As an estate planning attorney for almost 3 decades, it is inconceivable to me that there will not be significant fraud and expensive litigation over unsigned Will and electronic Wills. In my practice, preparing a Will (and other estate planning documents) is a process, not a product, that requires back and forth with the client, sometimes significant changes, and thoughtful drafting. Stating that an unsigned Will was just harmless error does not take into account that many persons make changes at the last minute or do not want to sign a draft Will for many different reasons.

Instead, if someone wants to make sure that there will be no controversy when they die, that their wishes will be respected, without expensive litigation, then please proceed with drafting a Will (and other estate planning documents) with an experienced estate planning attorney who believes in a process, and not a product, and who will guide you to make important decisions that will be impactful for years to come.

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