Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Filling the Gap: A New Uniform Law to Address Electronic Estate Plans


In 1999, the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) approved the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA), and a year later Congress enacted similar legislation. These laws allow for both parties involved in a transaction to agree to conduct business electronically and permits electronic record or signatures to satisfy requirements for “in writing” or “signed”. Both the UETA and E-Sign Act have exemptions for transactions governed by the law of wills.

When both were passed, there was a community wide belief that electronic signatures were inappropriate for a last will and testament, however, in the past two decades as consumer expectations have changed and secure electronic signatures have become common place. 

In 2019, the Uniform Electronic Wills Act (UEWA) was approved by the ULC, which allows attorneys to offer online estate-planning services, but preserves the requirement for attestation and witnesses. Shortly after the UEWA approval, the COVID-19 pandemic significantly increased the demand for online services. In many states, there is ambiguity surrounding estate-planning documents, like trusts and powers of attorney, and whether they are permitted to be executed in electronic form. The ULC has recently formed a new committee to resolve these ambiguities, and the committee will produce a new uniform act that is more appropriate for modern circumstances. The committee may also draft amendments to existing uniform acts so that electronic execution of estate-planning documents can be consistent. 

The drafting committees work will be available on the Uniform Laws website

For more information:

See Benjamin Orzeske, “Filling the Gap: A New Uniform Law to Address Electronic Estate Plans”, ABA Probate & Property, May/June2022.

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