Should I Consider Making a Digital Will?

Some families have a challenging time locating estate documents after a loved one dies. If family members cannot locate the original will, it may not matter if the person signed a will because the court may treat the matter as an intestate estate. Instead of the person’s final wishes being carried out, Michigan intestate laws will apply which may result in a much different outcome than the person desired.

Therefore, having a will is only effective if your loved ones know where to look for your estate documents. Some companies are offering to store digital wills for people who want to make sure their heirs can locate their will and other estate documents after their death. The companies also promote digital wills as “safer” because digital wills cannot be destroyed by fire, flood, or another disaster.

Many people may view digital wills as the solution to a problem. They store their photographs and other important documents on an internet server, so why not store their will on the cloud to keep it safe. While digital wills do sound appealing because they cannot be destroyed or lost as easily as a paper copy, there are several reasons to be concerned about using an online company to store a digital will.

Some Potentially Negative Aspects of a Digital Will

Digital wills may sound like a perfect solution; however, several factors could potentially make a digital will a bad choice for estate planning.

  • The company could shut down with little to no warning. If you do not have a hard copy of the documents or download copies of the estate documents, you could lose all documents in your estate plan.
  • As with anything online, companies who store digital documents are susceptible to security breaches. Some estate planning documents have a great deal of personal information, in addition to your financial information. Placing these documents online could result in identity theft or fraud if the company’s system is breached.
  • Some people may assume they do not need to consult an estate planning attorney if they choose a digital will. By using an online service to prepare a will or using a DIY form, you could skip vital steps that may result in your heirs spending much more money and time to probate your estate.
  • Michigan law requires that you submit the original copy of the will with your petition for probate. Whether the court will accept digital signatures as an “original” copy has not yet been determined. You do not want to leave your family to be the first family to litigate the validity of digital wills in Michigan.

Is There a Better Option?

A will is just one part of a comprehensive estate plan. Therefore, we urge you to consult with our Michigan estate planning attorneys to develop an estate plan that meets all your goals and ensures that your final wishes will be carried out after your death. An estate plan may utilize other estate planning documents in addition to a will including irrevocable or revocable trusts, living wills, healthcare power of attorney, durable power of attorney, and special needs trust.

After discussing your options for estate planning, our attorneys draft all documents so that they are valid under Michigan law. To help ensure the documents are protected, we advise storing the originals in a safe location such as a safe deposit box or a fire-proof/flood-proof safe. Our office will also maintain a copy, and you should give copies to your agents and personal representatives.

Michigan courts have accepted copies of wills that can be validated through testimony and other evidence. Therefore, a safer solution is to execute original, hard copies and place them in a safe place, but also make copies for yourself and your proposed agents and representatives. You can also scan copies of all documents and store the scanned copies on an internet server and a removable drive.

If your heirs cannot access your original copies for any reason, they can proceed to have the copy validated by the court. No method of retaining documents is fool-proof, but having original signatures and storing copies is probably the best protection anyone can expect.

The Elder Care Firm of Christopher J. Berry, CELA — Experienced Michigan Estate Planning Attorneys Help You Protect Your Family

Our estate planning lawyers want to help you develop a plan that protects you, your family, and your assets. It is important for your peace of mind to know that you have taken steps to make it easier for your family should you become incapacitated or you pass away.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our estate lawyers, call our office at 888-390-4360 or use the contact form on our website.

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