In the last several years, there have been many articles written about the role of “digital assets” in estate planning. These usually refer to Facebook accounts, online banking accounts and other things that create the online identity of the deceased. But a recent case about wills has taken that a step beyond.
In June, an Ohio court ruled that a will on a computer tablet is valid. The man who made the will was in the hospital and he decided he wanted to draft a will. His brother wrote the will for him on his Samsung tablet. Using the technology of the tablet, the man signed the will with a stylus and his two brothers witnessed his signature on the table. The court ruled that it met the legal definition of a will in Ohio.
The legal world has been slow to embrace technology. In a world where documents with signatures that could be physically handled and presented as evidence in court, digital documents seemed to have less credibility. But eventually courts will have to accept what is becoming the norm in society.
Just because a will is drafted on a computer with an electronic signature shouldn’t make it less valid than a will on paper. In fact, given the numerous digital signature apps available these days, a signature made on a computer may actually be more easily authenticated than a signature on a piece of paper. But because courts are still tying to work their way through these new technologies, it would be wise to plan ahead and create the traditional hard-copy documents.
In any event, consult an estate planning attorney who understands how the courts in your jurisdiction are treating electronic or digital estate planning documents. While it may be the wave of the future, don’t assume that courts in your jurisdiction are ready to accept them.