Written by: Robert Buzzendore, Esquire
During Covid restrictions, including restrictions on in- person gatherings, and perhaps even after Covid restrictions lapsed, a person may have signed a Will using an electronic or digital signature or a service such as “DocVerify”.
If you signed a Will with an electronic signature, you need to act promptly to validate it with a proper signature. The reason is the Superior Court recently held the Lancaster County Register of Wills Office properly refused to probate a Will signed with an electronic signature because the law did not allow an electronic signature.
Susan Kittler had her attorney prepare a Will. On the day she ‘signed’ it, Ms. Kittler resided in a nursing home. She attended the ‘signing’ by video conference from the nursing home. The notary attended by video conference from a different location, and she verified Ms. Kittler’s identity as allowed by the remote notary laws. Her attorney and two witnesses attended by video conference from the attorney’s office.
Ms. Kittler ‘signed’ her Will by using “DocVerify”, an online software vendor that met the Pennsylvania Department of State’s requirements to serve as a secure electronic method for affixing a digital signature which may be acknowledged through the remote participation of a notary public.”
After Ms. Kittler died, her adult child attempted to probate the Will and the Register refused. The trial court and Superior Court agreed the Register properly refused to probate the Will. The courts reasoned that the law states a will must be signed and it defined a signature to mean putting ‘ink to paper’. A digital or electronic signature was insufficient.
The inability to probate her Will meant her last wishes may not have been fulfilled. If you signed your Will with a digital or electronic signature, now is the time to act.