Increasingly people live their lives through their mobile phones. In 2016 tragically a man took his own life but he left an unsent text message on his mobile phone recording his last wishes. A friend of the deceased accessed the phone after he died to look through the contact list to determine who should be informed of the deceased’s death. The friend discovered the unsent text message which stated that the deceased’s brother and nephew should “keep all that I have house and superannuation, put my ashes in the back garden”.
A family feud erupted over the status of the unsent text message left by the deceased. The deceased’s brother and nephew asked a Court to rule that the message be treated as the deceased’s final Will. An opposing application was made by the deceased’s widow for a grant of letters of administration declaring that the deceased died leaving no Will. If the widow’s application was successful then the deceased’s estate would be divided between the deceased’s widow and son.
The Court had to determine whether the message was intended by the deceased to operate as his Will to enable the Court to uphold the message as the deceased’s Will. The Court noted “The informal nature of the text does not exclude it from being sufficient to represent the deceased’s testamentary intentions”. Referring to an earlier 2013 case, the Court noted that a DVD left by a deceased person marked with “my will” “although very informal” was found to be a valid Will.
The Court took into account a range of factors in ruling the text message in this case was a valid Will, including that it was “created on or about the time that the deceased was contemplating death, such that he even indicated where he wanted his ashes to be placed”. That the deceased’s mobile phone was with him where he died. That the deceased addressed how he wished to dispose of his property including details as to where cash was to be found, that there was money in the bank and the card pin number, as well as the deceased’s initials with his date of birth and ending the document with the words “my will”.
Whilst ultimately the application to have the text message upheld as a Will was successful, it was not without associated difficulty and delay and uncertainty coupled with considerable legal costs much of which could have been avoided if the deceased had consulted his Lawyer to make a Will. At Everingham Solomons, we have the expertise and experience to assist you with all your Estate planning needs because Helping You is Our Business.
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