The Electronic Wills Act: Facing the Inevitable
Real Property, Trust and Estate Journal, Forthcoming
29 Pages Posted: 1 Dec 2020
Date Written: March 20, 2020
In response to increasing legislative activity involving electronic wills, in 2017 the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) appointed the Drafting Committee on Uniform Electronic Wills Act to develop a uniform act providing rules governing the execution of electronic wills. The committee strove to create a statute that would be consistent with existing wills laws but would address differences for wills executed electronically. The committee sought to create rules that would protect the testator from manipulation by others but also from unwanted intestacy.
This article describes, from the perspective of the Reporter, the committee’s process in developing the Electronic Wills Act. The article explains each provision of the Act and describes reasons for decisions made in developing the Act, including decisions to exclude certain ideas from the Act. The article also compares the Act’s provisions with provisions of electronic wills statutes enacted in Arizona, Florida, Indiana, and Nevada. The article concludes with a few recommendations for enactment.
Given the increasing use of electronic documents and electronic signatures, testators will attempt to execute wills electronically. Although lawyers may prefer wills executed on paper, and paper wills will likely be the norm for many years to come, legislatures should consider enacting statutes that can guide and protect testators who prefer to execute their wills electronically. The Electronic Wills Act provides a thoughtfully developed model for states to use.
Keywords: Electronic wills, E-wills, will formalities, will execution
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