When writing opinions in matters involving a Last Will & Testament, courts are fond of saying, “the Will speaks from the testator’s death,” as did the Alabama Supreme Court in the aptly captioned case, Wills v. Wills. Trust & Estate lawyers sometimes speak euphemistically of the “dead hand” of the testator speaking through the Will to control the disposition of property from the grave. However, in this age of technology, words on paper as part of a Will are not the only way one can speak from the grave.
There is an application for Facebook that is named, somewhat optimistically, “if i die.” The application lets you leave a text or voice message that will be sent after your death. Imagine. You can now speak to your Facebook friends and family (as long as they are also your friends) after your death. As the app’s short video says, you can share a joke, tell a secret, settle a score or impart words of wisdom. Visit www.ifIdie.net to learn more about the application. There are other similar services from companies such as Legacy Locker and Deathswitch.com.
Technology has provided yet another way to speak from the grave, or in this case, the gravestone. No doubt you have seen those symbols that look like a matrix of scrambled black and white dots and bars showing up in many different settings. That is what is known as a QR, or quick response, code. Originating in the auto industry and adopted by other businesses like FedEx for tracking items, the matrix barcode can store information that can be read quickly by scanners. Now, operating systems or applications for smartphones have been developed that let you scan these QR codes to get immediate information, such as a special coupon at a store or to be entered into a sweepstakes drawing.
Inevitably, QR codes are now being built into gravestones. A person can scan the QR code to learn more about the person buried there. The QR code links to a website where family photos, videos and historical information about the dearly departed can be accessed. There are several companies providing this service, such as MemoryLinks and Living Headstones.
Of course, visually recording the execution of a Will to be played back after the person dies has been around for as long as there has been film in a camera. That seems like such old technology now, doesn’t? Videotaping a Will can be useful in certain situations, such as when capacity is in question, but it may also cause more problems than it solves. It needs to be done well, with good lighting and in a setting that allows the testator to feel comfortable so he or she will appear natural and at ease on camera.
Regardless of whether you plan to let your Will do your talking, or you plan to use an app to release a video with you as the star after you are gone, the key is to do your planning now. We all would like to have the last word, but we never know which words will be our last. So, don’t wait until it is too late. Any of the members of our estate planning group will be happy to help you get started on your last words.