December 21, 2014

Elyria
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Judge rules that a will written and signed on tablet is legal

ELYRIA — Lorain County Probate Judge James Walther ruled last week that a will written and signed on a tablet computer is legal, something he said he found scant evidence of having been done elsewhere in the country.

Javier Castro had gone to Mercy Regional Medical Center in late December and was told that he would need a blood transfusion in order to survive his illness, Walther wrote in his June 19 decision. Because of his religious beliefs – Castro was a Jehovah’s Witness, a faith that has prohibitions against accepting blood transfusions — he refused the procedure.

Walther wrote that on Dec. 30, Castro had a discussion with two of his brothers, Miguel Castro and Albie Castro, about a will and because they did not have any paper or a pencil, they decided to write the will on Albie Castro’s Samsung Galaxy tablet.

The brothers testified during a court hearing last week that Javier Castro told them how he wanted to divide up his estate and Miguel Castro wrote it down on the tablet using a stylus.

Before Javier Castro could sign the will he was transferred to the Cleveland Clinic, but later the same day he signed the will on the tablet with both of his brothers witnesses to the signature, Walther wrote.

After Javier Castro died on Jan. 30, the family printed out a copy of the will and it was turned into the Probate Court.

Walther wrote that if he had not accepted the will as valid, under the laws of the Ohio, Javier Castro’s estate would have passed to his parents, whose attorney said in court last week that they would still divide up their son’s estate as he had specified in the will.

Although Walther wrote that the state of Nevada does allow electronic wills, he noted there is no provision under Ohio law detailing what should be done with electronic wills.

Walther said Monday that he determined Javier Castro’s will met the legal definition of a will in Ohio, which describes a will as being a written document signed and witnessed. Theoretically, Walther said, someone could carve a will into stone tablets with a hammer and chisel and sign it and the will would technically still be valid.

Even though he made the decision to uphold Javier Castro’s will, Walther said that he believes the state legislature needs to update the law to address electronic wills.

“I can only think this is going to be utilized more and more, so it would be good to have some guidance,” Walther said.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.