Javier Castro’s last will and testament, drafted at his deathbed on his brother’s Samsung Galaxy tablet, was recently found valid by an Ohio court. The electronic will was signed and witnessed with a stylus, and this was sufficient to meet the requirements under Ohio law, which states only that a will be a written document that was signed and witnessed. Because (apparently) no pen and paper was readily available, an electronic tablet was deemed sufficient to record Javier’s testamentary wishes.
This ruling has led to a great deal of speculation in legal circles, and it appears that the judge’s ruling was intended as a call to action as well as a legal determination ― calling for the need for the legislature to set forth rules for wills that are prepared on electronic devices. (Nevada is currently the only state that specifically allows it.)
Will requirements under New York law
New York law also requires that a will be in writing and signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses. Someone may sign the will on the testator’s behalf if they are physically unable to do so, but that person must also sign their own name on the document. Failure to do so is sufficient to invalidate the will.
The only exceptions to these requirements are holographic wills (written entirely in the testator’s handwriting) and nuncupative wills (unwritten wills witnessed by at least two individuals), both of which are valid only for members of the armed forces and expire one year after the testator has regained their capacity. Even videotaped wills are not valid in New York ― will signings are generally videotaped only when it is necessary to verify that the testator had the legal capacity to make a will.
When it comes to legal documents, deviating from the strict requirements set forth under the law is never advisable. Although the judge in the Castro case stated that in Ohio, “theoretically, a will could be carved in stone with a hammer and chisel and also would be valid,” it is not advisable to do it yourself if you want to make sure that your wishes are honored. For assistance with preparing a timely and legal will, contact Armstrong & Lamberti, PLLC today.