Shattering and Moving Beyond the Gutenberg Paradigm: The Dawn of the Electronic Will

Legislators in Nevada have already acted to modernize the law of wills. This Article advocates that other states follow their lead and depart from what is described as the “Gutenberg Paradigm” by adopting similar legislation and embracing electronic technology. Part One of this Article explores the history of print, Johann Gutenberg’s role in this development, and the emergence of the “Gutenberg Paradigm.” Part Two examines the history and policy underpinnings of will execution formalities, and the role of the “writing” requirement. Part Three explores the use of electronic wills as conforming and nonconforming testamentary instruments. More specifically, Part Three highlights some of the pitfalls and shortcomings of the Nevada electronic wills statute and proposes a model wills statute that could be adopted by states wishing to modernize their wills statutes to allow for the creation of electronic wills. Part Three also provides other simple approaches for modernizing state wills statutes. Finally, Part Four outlines some basic anticipated concerns and criticisms regarding electronic wills and responds to those concerns and criticisms.