Has COVID-19 Caused an Increase in Electronic Wills?

After seeing a dip in the number of U.S. COVID-19 cases, cases are rising again and at an alarming rate. The devastation from the initial wave of COVID-19 is far from over, and now the country is reeling again as the disease’s deadlier cousin, the Delta variant, strikes with a vengeance on the unvaccinated. Despite the widespread availability of vaccines meant to prevent hundreds of thousands of Americans from dying of the disease a significant percentage of eligible Americans have refused, viewing the injection with unyielding skepticism and distrust. With no end to the pandemic in sight, many are choosing to plan for death instead of life: individuals across the country are scrambling to set up wills and end-of-life directives

covid electronic will

Rise in Online Wills

A number of online estate planning start-ups have sprung up in recent years, all promising customers a quick and painless way to draft a legally enforceable will. In about 30 minutes someone can explain all of their end-of-life preferences and ensure that everything from property to goods to children will go to the correct people if something terrible happens.  

In March of 2020, online will companies had a surge in users. Boston-based Gentreo saw a 143% week-over-week increase in people filling out wills, while San Diego’s Trust & Will saw a 50% uptick in users.

There are many advantages to online wills, such as efficiency and pricing. To sign a will, you need a notary and two witnesses (this varies by state). The final step in making an online will is printing out the form and having it notarized. This option is preferable for simpler wills because it is easier to make mistakes when dealing with more sophisticated estates.

Court Caution

However, as online wills become more popular, a chorus of lawyers is warning people not to use them. A short Google search will turn up articles about the perils of do-it-yourself wills, as well as anecdotes about online wills that have been ruled invalid in court.

Those considering using an online will should check to see if the site complies with state regulations.While wills are normally written in the same way across the country, there are some regional differences that, if overlooked, could lead to complications in the future.

The New York legislature and Surrogate’s Courts have yet to respond to imposition of the electronic world on long-standing traditions of will executions. New York courts take their responsibility in protecting testator intent through the formal probate process very seriously, and both the courts and New York legal standards recognize the importance of attorneys in ensuring the valid creation and execution of wills. While many testators may realize the benefits of employing electronic execution methods and custody for their wills, they may continue to recognize the need for a professional attorney’s supervision and oversight in drafting wills. An experienced and dedicated attorney will tailor a will to a client’s specific needs and answer all questions in a manner that simply filling out an electronic will not suffice. 

If you need an experienced attorney to assist you with drafting a will, please contact the Law Office of Inna Fershteyn at (718) 333-2394 for the most highly qualified and reliable expertise.