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For example: Let's say I simply put the signed, digitized document on a cloud drive and inform my executor of how to retrieve it via an email with instructions for safe keeping. Will my Executor have issues enforcing this document or proving its validity with the various states I have investments in and especially when it comes to assigning the guardianship of my children?

Reasoning: While we have worked with many law firms over the years for different reasons, it seems silly to pay a legal entity which I can't even be certain will exist when I die, to keep a document that is much safer and more readily accessible by my executor somewhere else. Furthermore, this document will change. I prefer to alter it myself without the hassle of re-filing it with an individual entity in hard-copy.

Details of Residency: My residency is in 2 states (OR and AZ) and have investments (also file tax returns) in 5 states.

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  • You'll need to specify the state where you reside. Many states have very specific laws on the form that a will must take, and how it is to be signed and authenticated. As far as I know, what matters is the state where you live, not the laws of other states. Once your state's courts are satisfied with the validity of your will, they'll issue documents authorizing your executor to act on behalf of your estate, and businesses in other states will honor those documents - they don't ever see the will itself. Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 6:02
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    @DaleM interesting... here in the US I'm reading a lot of state courts shutting down digital will and testament start up companies stating the documents are NOT en-forcible. So, maybe I answered my question after seeing these news articles. Maybe I should setup residency in AU. This archaic crap really ticks me off.
    – maplemale
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 22:36
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    Financial institutions in those other states will know you're dead when your executor sends them a copy of your death certificate (as issued by Wyoming or wherever you died). They'll obey your executor's instructions only if she can prove to them that she's authorized to act for the estate. AFAIK this proof is in the form of court documents, and the only court that will agree it has jurisdiction to issue such documents is that of the (a?) state where you were a resident. Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 0:03
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    A separate question is whether it is at all advisable to make / modify your own will. If your financial and living situation is so complicated that you aren't even sure which state you really live in, then I think you really need a competent estate attorney. Trying to DIY carries a high risk that your wishes will not be followed after your death. Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 0:04
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    What I mean is that you really have to start by finding out which state's courts will be enforcing your will, because it is that state's laws which will apply. Without this knowledge, the question is too broad. Then you need to know what those laws say and how they will apply in your particular situation. We can give you some information about the laws for any given state, but not for every state at once. Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 2:06

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The general answer is, no, it is not valid in the US, see this article. Exceptions to laws recognizing e-signatures abound which exclude wills from general laws recognizing electronic signatures. Nevada is the one current exception (conveniently located between Oregon and Arizona). There have been attempts to legalize electronic wills, including in Arizona (SB 1298). Although Tennessee does not recognize e-wills, a gentleman in Tennessee went ahead and did it, and in Taylor v. Holt, 134 S.W.3d 830 the court decided that the will was properly executed and witnessed. Electronic notarization is recognized in Arizona, though apparently for things you file with the government (not things that your heirs will eventually file), whereas in Oregon it is a general-purpose way of getting a document notarized. Since the courts are loathe to completely disregard a person's last will and testament because they didn't narrowly follow requirements, you might be able to "get away with it", but it would not make things easier for the executor.

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  • Ok. Thank you! So, is a digital copy of a wet-signed original document likely to be more en-forcible than an e-signed document? I wasn't so much asking about e-signing specifically as much as I was a digital copy.
    – maplemale
    Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 1:46
  • This is where the e-notary becomes relevant. The formalities for a self-proving will vary between states. The basic issue is, how to prove that the deceased signed this will? You'll need re-witnessing if you modify the will, and it's pretty simple to do that in the presence of a notary. You need a trusted survivor no matter what, so leave the copy with him. You don't have to file a will (at a courthouse) in advance of death.
    – user6726
    Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 1:57
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    @maplemale "So, is a digital copy of a wet-signed original document likely to be more en-forcible than an e-signed document?" A will is like a dollar bill. A digital copy is not a substitute for the original (except in extreme cases with a hearing and testimony that otherwise wouldn't be required and considerable risk that it won't be honored). Doctrinally, this is because one of the time honored ways to revoke a will is to physically destroy the physical original copy and this is legally presumed to have happened if the original can't be found. The presumption can be overcome, but not easily.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented May 14 at 19:51

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