Questions from the 21st Century – Is an Online Post of a Last Will and Testament Valid?

September 22, 2015
Lindsay M. Schoeneberger

The other night I saw a post on a popular social media site where someone jokingly posted their last will and testament online after eating some food with a questionable expiration date. While it was pretty clear they were joking, it begs the question, what if they were serious?  Could someone point to that post and successfully claim it was a Will?

While the requirements for a Will in Pennsylvania are pretty liberal, chances are a posting like that would not suffice.  In Pennsylvania, in order for a Will to be valid, the person (or “testator” if you prefer legalese) making the Will must be 18 years old and of sound mind.  The Will must also be signed at the end thereof.  These are the things that make a Will valid, but in order to properly probate it, you must be able to prove that the testator actually wrote the Will or directed that it be written.  It is doubtful that in a world of catfishing and other online hacking, a social media post would be considered valid.  However, it is important to note that someone could try to enforce a social media post in court as a valid Last Will and Testament and win.  But if you are serious about your wishes, why take that chance?  Some documents are still better off written in 20th century fashion with ink and paper.

Lindsay Schoeneberger is an attorney at Russell, Krafft and Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Widener University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas, including Estate Planning.