The Michigan Court of Appeals was recently asked to decide if a completely electronic "will" was valid. The ruling was that it is.
Duane Horton was only 21 when he committed suicide. Before his death, he left an undated, handwritten entry in his journal. The journal entry said that his "final note" was on his phone, that the app should be open, and that if it wasn’t open it could be found on Evernote. The entry also gave an email address and password for his Evernote account.
The "final note" was a typed document with Duane's name typed at the end but no handwritten signature. The document contained a detailed paragraph about who should receive Duane's property after his death. The case ended up in court because Duane's mother objected to the "final note" - which disinherited her.
The Court of Appeals found that while there are specific formal requirements for making a will, even a document that doesn't meet those requirements can be a will if there is "clear and convincing evidence that the decedent intended the document to [be his] will."
In this case, the trial court had heard the testimony of many witnesses about Duane's intentions, and his mother's testimony about her strained relationship with him provided additional support for Duane disinheriting her. The Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court that the "final note" was a valid and enforceable will.
If you have any questions regarding setting up your own will, it is important to get advice from an experienced estate planning attorney. Contact us for a free consultation.