Estate Planning, Probate, Small Business, & Asset Protection

Living Our Lives Online: E-Signatures and Arizona’s New Electronic Will Law

Living Our Lives Online: E-Signatures and Arizona’s New Electronic Will Law

Increasingly we are living our financial and social lives “online”, including shopping, business and legal activities. Many are uneasy about putting their information online, and question the security and enforceability of E-Signed agreements.

We have all “E-Signed” many agreements. Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google and an unlimited number of other online services all require your E-Signature to an online contract.

What Is an Electronic Signature?

An electronic signature (E-Signature) can be a tone made by pushing a phone button, filling an online form, sending an email, or clicking “I agree” at the bottom of an agreement.

Is an E-Signature as valid as a handwritten signature?

Under state and federal law, E-Signatures ARE valid and enforceable: The Uniform Electronic Transaction Act (States) and the E-Sign Act (federal) give E-Signatures the same legal status as handwritten signatures. No single technology is required, but your E-Signature is valid if the following elements exist:

  • Intent to enter into a contract must be demonstrated by a click, hitting send, or other method, and the terms of the agreement will spell out the method for showing intent.
  • Consent to the terms of the agreement and to be bound by an E-Signature is obtained and recorded. An opt-out should be available, and a paper-option should be provided.
  • Identity of the signor’s must be verified by password, two-step verification, use a 3rd party, or another reasonable method
  • Integrity of the agreement and E-Signature must be maintained to protect your information and the agreement. The information must be safely archived and secured from alteration or outside tampering.
  • Availability of the signed agreement is ensured for all parties involved in the contract. Copies must be provided to the signor if requested.

Arizona will soon permit and electronic Last Will & Testament

The Arizona State Legislature passed House Bill 2656 which permits digital signatures on an electronic will. The law goes into effect on June 30, 2019. You will, theoretically, be able to E-sign your will. The law does not remove the need for two witnesses to also sign your Will. Witnesses must be physically present when you sign, or at least be present later so you can affirm that you signed your will.

While a Notary is not legally required for a Will, it is highly recommended if you want the Will admitted easily by a probate court. A will is typically designed to go through the court process of probate, and so anything that makes probate easier is highly recommended. Unfortunately, electronic notarizations are not yet a reality in our State.

Interesting but not yet practical?

The new E-Will law is an interesting innovation, but the actual practice of E-Signing your Will does not appear to improve convenience over simply signing a paper Will in a lawyer’s office.

Getting two witnesses in the same room as the testator and having a notary physically present to authenticate the signature of the testator and the witnesses, is not different from signing a paper will.

Wills are not designed to be easy, they are one of the most solemn documents you will ever sign during your lifetime. It will be interesting to follow the development of this new law, but for the time being, I believe that an old-fashioned paper will is your best option for now, and a great way to….

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