Australian Court Accept Unsent Text As Valid Will
The Law Of…Writing Unusual Wills
An unsent text message, saved as a draft on a deceased man's mobile phone, has been accepted as a valid Will by a court in Australia. The man, who is not named, took his own life last year. The message found in his phone was addressed to his brother, who was named as the recipient of his assets in the text.
Erika Sinclair, Head of the Private Client team who specialise in Wills, brings you the story and explains what this could mean for Wills in the UK.
A Text Message Will
In a Brisbane Supreme Court ruling, it was decided that the text found on the deceased man's phone had sufficient wording to allow it to act as his will.
The unsent text message contained his bank details and information regarding where he had hidden money in his home. Statements such as "Put my ashes in the back garden" were found in the message and it was ruled that these were sufficient to show he intended the message to act as his will.
Recognising The Will
The deceased man's wife had applied to manage his assets, arguing that an unsent text message was not a valid will.
For a Will to be valid in Queensland, it must usually be written and signed by two witnesses. However, in this case, Justice Susan Brown said the wording of the text message and the surrounding circumstances were enough to have the text recognised as the man's Will. The text itself ended with the words "my will".
Justice Brown went on to explain that: "The reference to his house and superannuation and his specification that the applicant (his wife) was to take her own things indicates he was aware of the nature and extent of his estate, which was relatively small".
Brown also said that despite the "informal nature" of the text, it was still a valid representation of the man's final intentions. The fact the message was "created on or about the time that the deceased was contemplating death" further stood to validate the text.
The deceased man's assets were distributed to his brother and nephew, as instructed by the message.
Do The Courts Usually Recognise Such Unusual Wills?
The law relating to wills was amended in Queensland in 2006, allowing for informal documents to be considered and recognised as a Will.
Another example of an unusual will accepted under Australian law was a DVD marked as "my will" which was ruled as valid in 2013.
The UK Law Commission is currently in the middle of a public consultation to review the traditional legal formalities applying to wills. Specifically, one proposal being considered is to allow the courts to "dispense with the formalities for a will where it is clear what the deceased wanted".
How will this Affect Your Will?
"Despite the on going consultation, the better approach is still to ensure that any Will you make meets current legal requirements. This will mean that when you die, you can be certain that your wishes will be followed with regards to how you would like your assets dealt with and distributed to your loved ones."
"A will is probably one of the most important legal documents that you prepare during your lifetime. It makes sense therefore that you take sound legal professional advice as to its preparation rather than dealing with this informally, and thereby leaving it to the courts to decide whether your ‘informal’ document is a valid will or not."
We have a dedicated Wills and Probate legal team who will be very happy to assist you in preparing any such documents. This will provide you with the peace of mind that all the necessary legal formalities have been taken care of and that your wishes will be followed on your death.
Contact one of our solicitors today either on or freephone number or through our digital enquiry form.