Money Talks, So Should You

Ask Jane: Is a will typed into my computer considered legal?

Jane Bryant Quinn
by Jane Bryant Quinn, Dimespring Contributor  (@janebryantquinn)

Nope. You might as well have no will at all. Only Nevada allows electronic wills with digital signatures, and you have to meet a lot of other complicated requirements.

So please – today! – print out your will. To make it legal, sign and date it in the presence of at least two adult witnesses. They have to sign it, too, and add their addresses. The witnesses should be “disinterested” – meaning that they won’t inherit anything. In about 18 states, you also need witnesses for wills you write out by hand.

Witnesses don’t have to know what’s in the will. They just have to watch you sign it and hear you say that you know what you’re signing.

READ: Six steps to a great financial plan

The majority of states accept wills that you signed and dated without witnesses. But unwitnessed wills have to be written partly or entirely in your own hand. You can’t just sign a printout or a pre-printed form you took off the web. Check your state’s rules online. If you make a mistake, your will won’t be any good.

Unless you have a super-simple situation (say, leaving everything to a spouse, friends and siblings), I’d urge you to speak with a lawyer. If you have young children, you’ll want to leave their money in trust, which means choosing a trustee. You’ll also need to name a guardian for the children if you and your spouse die together.

If you still want to write your will yourself, consider Nolo’s Online Will (It’s Sample Will shows what you’ll get), LegacyWriter or LegalZoom.


Jane Bryant Quinn is a nationally known commentator on personal finance, with books and columns read and trusted by millions. In her long career, she has established herself as America’s most reliable voice for people trying to manage their money well. Read more of Jane's articles here