Tuesday, July 23, 2019
The Uniform Electronic Wills Act permits testators to execute an electronic will and allows probate courts to give electronic wills legal effect. Most documents that were traditionally printed on paper can now be created, transferred, signed, and recorded in electronic form. Since 2000 the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) and a similar federal law, E-SIGN have provided that a transaction is not invalid solely because the terms of the contract are in an electronic format. But UETA and E-SIGN both contain an express exception for wills, which, because the testator is deceased at the time the document must be interpreted, are subject to special execution requirements to ensure validity and must still be executed on paper in most states. Under the new Electronic Wills Act, the testator's electronic signature must be witnessed contemporaneously (or notarized contemporaneously in states that allow notarized wills) and the document must be stored in a tamper-evident file. States will have the option to include language that allows remote witnessing. The act will also address recognition of electronic wills executed under the law of another state. For a generation that is used to banking, communicating, and transacting business online, the Uniform Electronic Wills Act will allow online estate planning while maintaining safeguards to help prevent fraud and coercion.