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Until a generation ago, legal documents existed exclusively in physical form on paper. But in today's world, receiving electronic documents is increasingly common. Most states, however, only recognize tangible, often paper, wills as binding.

It has been traditional for wills to be enforceable only if they are written, signed by the testator, and witnessed by two other witnesses. The requirements for execution will remain important, but the paper is no longer necessary in the internet age. Additionally, electronic documents can be securely signed, witnessed, and archived.

The internet has also become a popular medium for communicating, shopping, and transacting business, which means that people expect to find legal services there. Allowing digital will execution and preserving legal safeguards, the Uniform Electronic Wills Act ("E-Wills Act") moves estate planning into the digital age.

Under the E-Wills Act, the testator must make an electronic will, also known as an e-will, that can be read as text when they sign it electronically. In addition to the testator's signature, two witnesses must add their electronic signatures.

States that adopt the E-Wills Act can require witnesses to attend the signing in person or allow remote witnesses to witness the signing.

Let's explore more below.

E-Wills: What You Need to Know

Testators can execute an electronic will under the Uniform Electronic Wills Act, and probate courts can give legal effect to electronic wills. A transaction is not invalid solely because it is in an electronic format because of laws such as the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) and the federal law, E-SIGN.

There is an express exception to this in both UETA and E-SIGN, which requires special execution requirements to ensure validity. Most states must still be signed on paper because the testator was deceased when the document was drafted.

There is an express exception to this in both UETA and E-SIGN, which requires special execution requirements to ensure validity. Most states must still be signed on paper because the testator was deceased when the document was drafted.

Testators must witness their electronic signature under the new Electronic Wills Act or have their will notarized in states allowing this. The states will have the option of including language to allow remote witnessing.

Additionally, the act addresses the recognition of electronic wills executed under the laws of another state. This act will allow online estate planning while maintaining safeguards to help prevent fraud and coercion for a generation accustomed to online banking, communications, and transactions.

States Where Electronic Wills Are Permitted

Currently, 10 American states allow testators to create formalized wills purely on electronic devices without ever converting to paper. While four states follow the Uniform Electronic Wills Act (Oregon, Utah, Colorado and North Dakota), six others have passed their non-uniform e-wills laws (Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Nevada and Washington). The legislative process is fast-moving, so more bills are in the works.

There are, however, only two states that expressly prohibit testators from executing e-wills today, New Hampshire and Oregon. Those two states expressly prohibit electronic wills, but the issue is unclear in the remaining 38, as seen below.

State Electronic Will Act Status
Arizona § 14-2518 - Electronic will; requirements; interpretation
Florida Chapter 732 Probate Code Intestate Succession And Wills
Illinois 755 ILCS 6/ Electronic Wills and Remote Witnesses Act.
Indiana Chapter 21. Electronic Wills 29-1-21-16. "Filing of an Electronic Will"
Maryland 4–102 - Laws - Statute Text
Nevada NRS CHAPTER 133 - WILLS
Colorado Colorado Uniform Electronic Wills Act
North Dakota ELECTRONIC WILLS – HB 1077
Utah H.B. 6001, Uniform Electronic Wills Act
Washington State Chapter 11.12 RCW WILLS
New Hampshire Expressly prohibit the execution of e-wills by testators
Oregon Expressly prohibit the execution of e-wills by testators

In every other state, the status of an electronic will is unclear and depends on “writing” as defined in the statute of wills of that state. These states include:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Let’s look at a few of these as examples of how these definitions can vary. In Ohio, a will is acceptable if it is in writing, which can be either handwritten or typed (Ohio Revised Code section 2107.03). However, it depends on the case if this definition extends to a completely electronic will in Ohio that is not physically printed out.

Helpful Resources: X-3.1 Other - Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act

Uniform Law Commission - Electronic Wills Act.

Gudorf Law - Electronic Wills in Ohio

Philadelphia Law Pozzuolo - Are Electronic Wills Legal?

Until a generation ago, legal documents existed exclusively in physical form on paper. But in today's world, receiving electronic documents is increasingly common. Most states, however, only recognize tangible, often paper, wills as binding.

It has been traditional for wills to be enforceable only if they are written, signed by the testator, and witnessed by two other witnesses. The requirements for execution will remain important, but the paper is no longer necessary in the internet age. Additionally, electronic documents can be securely signed, witnessed, and archived.

The internet has also become a popular medium for communicating, shopping, and transacting business, which means that people expect to find legal services there. Allowing digital will execution and preserving legal safeguards, the Uniform Electronic Wills Act ("E-Wills Act") moves estate planning into the digital age.

Under the E-Wills Act, the testator must make an electronic will, also known as an e-will, that can be read as text when they sign it electronically. In addition to the testator's signature, two witnesses must add their electronic signatures.

States that adopt the E-Wills Act can require witnesses to attend the signing in person or allow remote witnesses to witness the signing.

Let's explore more below.

E-Wills: What You Need to Know

Testators can execute an electronic will under the Uniform Electronic Wills Act, and probate courts can give legal effect to electronic wills. A transaction is not invalid solely because it is in an electronic format because of laws such as the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) and the federal law, E-SIGN.

There is an express exception to this in both UETA and E-SIGN, which requires special execution requirements to ensure validity. Most states must still be signed on paper because the testator was deceased when the document was drafted.

There is an express exception to this in both UETA and E-SIGN, which requires special execution requirements to ensure validity. Most states must still be signed on paper because the testator was deceased when the document was drafted.

Testators must witness their electronic signature under the new Electronic Wills Act or have their will notarized in states allowing this. The states will have the option of including language to allow remote witnessing.

Additionally, the act addresses the recognition of electronic wills executed under the laws of another state. This act will allow online estate planning while maintaining safeguards to help prevent fraud and coercion for a generation accustomed to online banking, communications, and transactions.

States Where Electronic Wills Are Permitted

Currently, 10 American states allow testators to create formalized wills purely on electronic devices without ever converting to paper. While four states follow the Uniform Electronic Wills Act (Oregon, Utah, Colorado and North Dakota), six others have passed their non-uniform e-wills laws (Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Nevada and Washington). The legislative process is fast-moving, so more bills are in the works.

There are, however, only two states that expressly prohibit testators from executing e-wills today, New Hampshire and Oregon. Those two states expressly prohibit electronic wills, but the issue is unclear in the remaining 38, as seen below.

State Electronic Will Act Status
Arizona § 14-2518 - Electronic will; requirements; interpretation
Florida Chapter 732 Probate Code Intestate Succession And Wills
Illinois 755 ILCS 6/ Electronic Wills and Remote Witnesses Act.
Indiana Chapter 21. Electronic Wills 29-1-21-16. "Filing of an Electronic Will"
Maryland 4–102 - Laws - Statute Text
Nevada NRS CHAPTER 133 - WILLS
Colorado Colorado Uniform Electronic Wills Act
North Dakota ELECTRONIC WILLS – HB 1077
Utah H.B. 6001, Uniform Electronic Wills Act
Washington State Chapter 11.12 RCW WILLS
New Hampshire Expressly prohibit the execution of e-wills by testators
Oregon Expressly prohibit the execution of e-wills by testators

In every other state, the status of an electronic will is unclear and depends on “writing” as defined in the statute of wills of that state. These states include:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Let’s look at a few of these as examples of how these definitions can vary. In Ohio, a will is acceptable if it is in writing, which can be either handwritten or typed (Ohio Revised Code section 2107.03). However, it depends on the case if this definition extends to a completely electronic will in Ohio that is not physically printed out.

Helpful Resources: X-3.1 Other - Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act

Uniform Law Commission - Electronic Wills Act.

Gudorf Law - Electronic Wills in Ohio

Philadelphia Law Pozzuolo - Are Electronic Wills Legal?