Models of Electronic-Will Legislation

Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Journal, volume 56, no. 2 (summer, 2021)

San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 21-014

73 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2021 Last revised: 26 Oct 2022

Date Written: June 20, 2021


This Article examines alternative ways lawmakers could structure legislation validating electronic wills. The Article identifies four essential models, each of which is currently reflected in acts or drafts of acts found either in the United States or abroad. These are: (1) acts validating electronic wills that meet formal requirements, (2) acts giving effect only to specialized variants of electronic wills (or none at all), (3) acts allowing electronic wills only when made under emergency conditions, and (4) acts allowing electronic records intended as wills on a case-by-case basis, without establishing formalities for their validation. In the course of the analysis, the Article performs the first-ever empirical survey of popular assumptions concerning the revocation of electronic wills. The Article ultimately concludes that, given the novelty of electronic wills, we are best off if states experiment with alternative legislative models until lawmakers have enough evidence to assess their relative merits. For this reason, the Uniform Electronic Wills Act of 2019 is premature.

Keywords: electronic wills, e-wills, digital wills, revocation, inheritance law, uniform laws, empirical studies, comparative law, harmless error, dispensing power, emergency wills

JEL Classification: K11, K19, K39

Suggested Citation

Hirsch, Adam Jay, Models of Electronic-Will Legislation (June 20, 2021). Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Journal, volume 56, no. 2 (summer, 2021), San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 21-014, Available at SSRN:

Adam Jay Hirsch (Contact Author)

University of San Diego ( email )

5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110
United States

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