The Illinois legislature has made a temporary order allowing residents to sign wills electronically and witness signatures remotely permanent. Advocates believe this legislation increases safety and efficiency and lowers the risk of fraud.
What does this change mean for estate planning in Illinois?
The Electronic Wills and Remote Witnesses Act
The Illinois legislature passed the Electronic Wills and Remote Witnesses Act in July 2021. The act requires that persons leaving a will or a person they appoint who is not a beneficiary or their next of kin execute an electronic will. At least two credible witnesses must see the signature and sign an attestation of that fact. To be valid in Illinois, persons must execute their will within the state.
Remote witnesses may attest to a will that is electronic, on paper, or on a paper copy of an electronic document. The witness must either know the person signing the will or verify that person’s identity by requesting a government-issued photo ID or using an identity proofing service.
Benefits of electronic signatures
An official must record electronic signatures and transmit the documents securely and then store them in protected electronic vaults. Probate petitions have to demonstrate that the record is tamper-evident and that no one made any unauthorized changes. This may make it more difficult for anyone to fraudulently sign a will.
Persons leaving a will can still choose to sign the will and have it witnessed in person, but now have another option that may make the process easier and safer.