On June 27, 2022 the Uniform Electronic Wills Act (S2923) was introduced in the New Jersey Senate. The Bill has been referred to the Judiciary Committee and a similar Bill (A4492) has been introduced in the Assembly. If passed into law, the bill would allow for electronic wills in New Jersey.
The purpose of the Uniform Electronic Wills Act is to treat electronic wills as any other will. The Act would allow local Surrogates to admit electronic wills to probate without the necessity of a court action. The Act would simplify and streamline the process for creating and probating electronic wills.
States such as Washington, Utah, Colorado, and North Dakota have already enacted the Uniform Electronic Wills Act.
Other states such as Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, and Nevada have separate statues allowing for the electronic execution of wills.
As drafted in the senate bill, an electronic will would be a record that is readable as text–that means you can’t turn a TikTok video into a will–at the time of signing, and signed by the testator in the physical or electronic presence of the testator by at least two individuals, each of whom signed within a reasonable time after witnessing.
The act of signing wouldn’t require pen and paper. A signature for this purpose could be any electronic symbol or process used by the testator with the intent to create an electronic will.
Electronic wills would be a bold change to existing law making the process of creating a will easier for almost everyone.
The Surrogate Courts located throughout the state would have to adopt new methods to authenticate valid wills. My guess is the new law–if passed–would work in very much the same way as the existing law now works. A proponent would put forth the electronic will and provide sufficient evidence that the statutory requirements have been met. The Surrogate would then admit the will and require Notice of Probate on all interested parties. Those impacted by the will would then be in position to argue as to whether the document constitutes a valid will.
For example, maybe an argument exists that a certain electronic mark is unreliable as a signature for various reasons. That could be grounds to go to court and have a judge issue a ruling.
For more about electronic wills and will law in general, take a look at my published materials.