04 October 2005

Computerized Signature Validates Will

In an apparent first of its kind ruling, a computer generated signature has been held sufficient to validate a Last Will and Testament in Tennessee.

The case in question, however, was an easy case. The Will was printed by the testator. in the presence of the witnesses. who heard him state that he intended his computer generated signature to serve as his signature, and they then signed the document conventionally themselves. The Court relied, in part, on the precedent of people using an "X" mark which cannot be proven definitively to be the actual person's signature, as a valid means of assenting of a Will. This made it easy to view the computer in this case as nothing more than a fancy pen making a special mark for the testator.

The real hard case, not yet resolved, is whether, for example, an e-mail testamentary in its language sent by a passenger on a plane which then crashes without the e-mail even being printed out, and without having anyone witness the passenger write or send the e-mail, could still be a valid Last Will and Testament. There is wiggle room in the Uniform Probate Code to validate a Will even if it does not meet all the formal requirements set forth in the statute, if clear and convincing evidence shows that it is intended as a Will. But, no reported case to my knowledge has tested such a close case.

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