Digital Wills

Ashley Wallace-Cook, Wills, Trusts and Probate Partner at WSP Solicitors

“Keep all that I have”

A judge in the Supreme Court in Brisbane, Australia has ruled that an unsent text message found on a deceased man’s mobile phone was a valid digital will.

The deceased man, who took his own life, had broken up with his wife for the third time just days before his suicide. His marriage had been unstable and he had enjoyed no relationship with his son.
Prior to his death he had written a draft text message addressed to his brother, in which he declared his brother and nephew should ‘keep all I have’. The text message included detailed references to his assets, superannuation and funeral arrangements. The judge ruled that these specific references and the use of the words ‘…My will’ at the end of the text message indicated the man was fully aware of what he was doing.
The deceased man’s wife had challenged the validity of the will and had argued that the fact the text message had not been sent demonstrated these were not the man’s final instructions.
Formal wills in Queensland must be prepared on paper and signed by the testator and two witnesses in their presence. However, the law in Queensland was changed in 2006 to allow courts to consider ‘informal wills’ and, in 2013, a DVD marked ‘my will’ was accepted.
This informality must be approved by the courts and, as Queensland’s Law Society’s President Christine Smith put it ‘…[trusts] the people you leave behind into the legal system’, which can be costly, time-consuming and stressful at a time when emotions may already be high.

Digital Wills in England and Wales

Wills prepared in England and Wales require to satisfy the provisions of the Wills Act, which was enacted in 1837. However, and in an effort to catch up with technology, the UK Law Commission is currently engaging in a public consultation concerning the legal requirements for a valid will, one of its proposals being to consider dispensing with the formalities for a will where it is clear what the deceased wanted.

If you are considering making a will and wish to avoid any complications following your death, we recommend contacting a solicitor. Please call Ashley Wallace-Cook on 01452 429862 or email ashleywallace-cook@wspsolicitors.com

 

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