Court recognises iPhone Will

Karter Yu took his own life on 2 September 2011. Shortly before he died, he created a series of documents on his iPhone, one of which was expressed to be his last Will, commencing with the words, “This is the last Will and Testament…” Yu formally identified himself, gave his address, and typed his name at the end of the document in a place where on a paper document a signature would appear, followed by the date, and a repetition of his address. The Supreme Court of Queensland was asked if the iPhone will satisfied the three conditions necessary before an order might be made under the Succession Act (the “Act”) to admit the Will to probate, and if it did, that probate be granted to his brother.

Although the iPhone document did not meet the requirements for a valid Will under the Act if the Court is satisfied that a person intended a document to form their Will, then the document forms a Will if in the Courts opinion it purports to state the testamentary intentions of the deceased person.

Does a document exist?

“Document” is broadly defined by law to include any disc, tape or other article, or any material from which writings are capable of being produced or reproduced, with or without the aid of another article or device.

The Court was satisfied that the record on the iPhone was a document for the purposes of the Act after accepting that the facts of the case were similar to those where a Microsoft Word document created on a laptop computer was considered to be a document by the New South Wales Supreme Court.

Does the iPhone Will express the statutory intention of the deceased?

The Court then had to decide whether the iPhone Will stated the intentions as to what should be done with a person’s property on that person’s death

On examination the Court found that iPhone Will did this. It dealt with the distribution of the whole of the deceased’s property, and named his brother as an executor (also nominating an alternative executor if his brother was unable to perform in that role) and gave authority to the executor to deal with the deceased’s affairs in the event of his death.

Did the deceased intend for the document to form his Will?

The Court then considered whether Yu intended the iPhone Will to form his Will, simply stating his testamentary wishes is not sufficient. In order to satisfy the provisions of the Act there must also be the intention that the Will be legally operative so as to dispose of the person’s property upon that person’s death. The Court held that the document satisfied that requirement.

Although in most Jurisdictions there are laws that enable a Court to consider an informal document as a Will. The  factors in this decision do not mean others can do something similar and expect it to be valid. Your Will should be prepared and executed in accordance with the formal requirements to save the time and expense of legal action not to mention the additional stress to your family and friends at an already difficult time.

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