The state of Washington made some big changes to the way that wills can be created and maintained. Thanks to the Electronic Wills Act (EWA), residents of this state can now execute and store their wills entirely online as of Jan. 1, 2022.
What exactly does this mean for you? What do you need to know to make effective use of this option for your estate? Read on:
The EWA makes it easier to create and store your estate documents
For a lot of people, one of the more difficult aspects of creating a will is simply traveling back and forth to their attorney’s office to get the documents in order – and get them notarized and witnessed. It can be difficult to arrange for two witnesses, a notary and the testator to all be in the same place at the same time.
Then, of course, there’s the issue of finding a way to safely store the will and other documents. Do you put them in a safety deposit box? Do you put it in a safe at your house? Do you file it with the probate court or pay to store at an attorney’s office? No option seems terribly convenient for your heirs.
The Electronic Wills Act essentially moves the whole process into the 21st century by allowing everyone involved in the creation of the will to act in a coordinated method online. When witnessed and signed via DocuSign or some other process, the witnesses and notary need only be online together in a Skype call or something similar.
Moreover, the online will can now be recognized as an official document (valid for probate) – just so long as it is continuously maintained and preserved by a qualified custodian – and is retrievable from electronic storage. A qualified custodian is basically any legal adult resident of the state or an entity like a trust company, law office or bank.
It’s important to know that an electronic will is not the same as a do-it-yourself template. Good estate planning still takes knowledgeable legal guidance to get right.