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Judge Upholds Uncontested Will Written on Android Tablet

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By William Peacock, Esq. on June 28, 2013 1:07 PM

A probate court in Ohio addressed a novel issue of law earlier this week when it had to decide whether a will, drafted on a tablet, (no, not that kind of tablet, this kind) was valid under Ohio state law.

Javier Castro was told by doctors at the Mercy Regional Medical Center that he needed a blood transfusion to survive. As a Jehovah’s Witness, he declined treatment. Before his death, however, he told two of his brothers that he wished to draft a will. Lacking pen and paper, the brothers drafted the will on a Galaxy Tablet. Later that day, Castro signed the will, using the tablet’s stylus, with his brothers serving as witnesses, reports The Chronicle-Telegram.

Judge James Walther, while recognizing that the issue had not previously been decided, looked to the plain text of the statute, which merely requires that the will "shall be in writing, but may be handwritten or typewritten," be signed by the testator or his representative, and be witnessed. The will met all statutory requirements, even if it was "written" on an odd, new medium.

As the court noted, a written will is valid, whether it is drafted on an Android tablet or carved into a stone one.

The court's decision was made even easier by Castro's parents, who would have received his estate had he died intestate. They informed the court that regardless of the court's holding, they planned to comply with their son's wishes.

Though the court felt that the law dictated the result, and seemed to express no reservations in upholding the will, according to the Telegram-Chronicle, Judge Walther did state that he believed that the state should update their laws to address electronic wills.

Electronic wills certainly do have their pros and cons. While they may be easier to draft, and with cloud-storage backups, nearly impossible to lose or misplace, digital files and electronic signatures always present authentication problems. Have the files been manipulated? Is that "digital signature," actually that of the deceased?

A notarized paper copy is always going to be easier to authenticate than a PDF file.

Then again, isn't that why most states, including Ohio, have disinterested witness requirements? Multiple witnesses, who aren't beneficiaries of the will, should guard against most claims of fraud.

Besides, how convenient would it be to handle all wills on a tablet? Have the client sign, email copies to both the client and the executor, keep a copy in your client files, and save a back-up copy in the cloud, all in a matter of seconds? Then, when the time comes, you won't be digging through boxes of dusty files because the client misplaced his paper copy before passing.

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