During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, a major blind spot in regulations pertaining to estate planning was revealed. Many Americans found themselves embracing the importance of estate planning and end-of-life decision making. Yet, in the midst of lockdowns and hospitalizations, executing critical legal documents proved challenging, if not impossible for some. Although the technology to create a fully digital will exists, many states do not recognize these methods as legally valid.
However, the pandemic served as a catalyst to allow for the digitization of estate planning. Several states have updated their regulations to recognize the legal use of electronic signatures, remote witnessing, and online notary services for the valid execution of a will. Among these early-adopters is the state of Nevada. This guide will go over how to create an electronic will in Nevada, plus any state-specific requirements you should be aware of.
Does Nevada allow electronic wills?
Yes, Nevada now allows electronic wills and recognizes digital and electronic methods of executing a will as legally valid.
On July 1, 2017, Nevada enacted a modern electronic will statute and became one of a small handful of U.S. states that legally recognizes an electronically-created and signed Last will and Testament.
A traditional will has to be dated and signed by the testator (the person creating the will) in the presence of two witnesses. These two witnesses cannot be related to the testator, nor can they stand to inherit any property from the testator’s property. The testator and their witnesses must physically sign a hard copy of the will in the presence of one another in order for it to be properly executed.
Today, a testator has the option to create their will electronically. NRS 133.085 provides that a will may be drafted, signed, witnessed, and notarized electronically or virtually and still be valid. We’ll go over the requirements for creating e-wills in Nevada shortly.
Interestingly, this wasn’t Nevada’s first attempt to legalize electronic wills. In 2001, Nevada enacted the nation’s first piece of legislation regarding electronic wills. The statute was certainly forward-thinking, but it unfortunately wasn’t accessible to the average will-writing American. The technology needed to create a digital will in compliance with Nevada statutes didn’t exist yet. The legislatures who drafted the laws anticipated that the software would be available soon after, but it didn’t arrive until much later. Further, this early version of the law didn’t anticipate the need for attestation of witnesses or notarization in an electronic or remote format. Over the span of a decade, the statute was never used.
Luckily, the groundbreaking laws finally came to fruition in Nevada in 2017, where electronic wills are not only legal, they are also fully feasible.
What makes an electronic will in Nevada valid?
Because the statutes allowing for electronic wills are currently adapted on a state-by-state basis, the requirements can vary. For instance, the requirements for a Nevada resident could be entirely different from those of a Florida resident. Thus, it’s important to pay close attention to what makes an electronic will valid in your respective state.
Here are the requirements for making a valid electronic will in Nevada.
First, the will must be created and maintained as an electronic record.
Second, it must contain the date of the signature and include at least one of the following:
An authentication characteristic of the testator, or, a characteristic that is unique to a certain person. It must be capable of electronic recognition in an electronic record. Further, it must be a biological aspect or physical act performed by that person. Some examples of this are a fingerprint, retinal scan, voice or facial recognition, digitized signature, etc. Essentially, any reasonable authentication that uses a unique characteristic of the person.
The electronic signature and electronic seal of a remote/electronic notary public. It must have been placed in the presence of the testator and must have been in the presence of the testator when they placed their electronic signature on the will.
The electronic signatures of two or more attesting witnesses who sign the document in the present of the testator. They must have been in the presence of the testator when the testator electronically signed the will.
In order for the will to be self-proving, an electronic will in Nevada must:
Contain an affidavit or declaration by the witnesses that is incorporated as a part of the electronic will, or attached or logically associated with it
The electronic will must designate a qualified custodian to maintain custody of the electronic record of the electronic will
Must be under the custody of a qualified custodian at all times until the electronic will is offered for probate
How can I create my electronic will in Nevada?
The process of creating an electronic will in Nevada is not dissimilar to the process of creating a traditional will. However, instead of typing up and printing a will, or handwriting a will, it is created digitally. This is best done through an online will creation service such as Trust & Will.
Trust & Will’s trusted platform makes it such that a testator can easily create their will online. For instance, it allows you to customize your electronic will through a series of prompts and questions. Not having to start from scratch can make the task much less daunting, plus it can give you the peace of mind knowing that the resulting document will cover all your bases. Further, a good service provider will include additional tools to provide a fully digital will creation process from end-to-end. For instance, they will provide the tools necessary to add electronic signatures, or create an audio-video recording.
Trust & Will took these services one step further by partnering with Notarize, a trusted platform for legally signing and notarizing documents online. This partnership allows testators to create, sign, witness, and notarize their electronic will and other estate planning documents in one seamless experience.
To create a will in Nevada, electronic or not, you must be at least 18 years of age and be of sound mind. testators who are eligible can follow these steps to creating an electronic will in Nevada:
Decide what assets and property you’d like to include in your will
Decide who your beneficiaries are (who will inherit your property)
Choose an Executor who you’d like to manage your estate
Choose a Guardian for any dependent children or pets (if applicable)
Choose someone who will manage your children’s property
Select your online will creation service provider
Customize the provided will with your personal information and decision-making
Electronically sign your will in the physical presence of your two witnesses
Ask your witnesses to electronically sign your will
Follow the prompts provided by your service provider to complete and execute your will
Store your electronic will securely in a digital vault (your qualified custodian)
Don’t forget that you can make your will self-proving by having your witnesses sign an attestation clause in your will. Another option is to sign a self-proving affidavit in the presence of an online notary, which Nevada allows. Unfortunately, the state of Nevada does not allow for remote witnessing, meaning the the witnesses must be in the physical presence of the testator when the testator and witness electronic signatures are applied to the digital document.
Eligibility and Important Considerations for eWills
Nevada is one of the few early adopters of laws allowing electronic wills in the U.S. In most cases, the COVID-19 pandemic served as the catalyst for legislators to update their statutes, but in Nevada’s case, legislators have been making attempts to legalize electronic wills since 2001. The first time around, the technology that would have made electronic wills technically feasible for the average American was not quite ready yet. However, in 2017, both legislation and technology came together and prevailed.
If you are a resident of Nevada, it means you live in one of the few early-adopter states that allow you to create your will electronically from end-to-end. If the requirements are correctly met, your electronic will holds the same legal validity as a traditional will. The digitization of traditional and sometimes outdated legal processes will certainly make estate planning more accessible for many Americans.
[It’s important to note that given the dynamic nature of eWill legislation, the availability and specific requirements for eWills vary from state to state. Trust & Will is working to make our platform compliant with eWill regulations in the states where they are available. For the latest updates, be sure to check out our eWill page.]
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Trust & Will is an online service providing legal forms and information. We are not a law firm and we do not provide legal advice.