iPhone Will Found to be Valid

This is an unusual story from Australia that is, when we think about the potential ramifications, sending a tiny panicky shiver up our probate lawyer spines.

Apparently, in what is believed to be a legal first in Queensland (and possibly Australia), the Supreme Court has ruled that a will typed into a smartphone but not written out or signed is still valid.
We understand that Charlie Young, an estate litigation lawyer with a Brisbane law firm, sought the Court’s ruling for the brother of the deceased, who committed suicide in September 2011. With no witnesses, the deceased had used a Notes app on his iPhone to tap in a will shortly before ending his life. The man’s brother, named as executor, could not initially carry out the will’s instructions as it did not comply with legal requirements (such as the will being in writing, signed and witnessed). Nevertheless, it seems that Justice Peter Lyons declared the iPhone will was valid and probate was granted.

Although the will was not witnessed, it appears that the court found it had been created on the iPhone by the man with the clear intention of it being legal and operative before he tragically ended his life moments later.

Charlie Young has said: “There were special factors in this decision but they do not mean others can use a mobile phone to prepare a DIY will and expect it to be valid.” He has added “Quite apart from the usual requirement that a will be in writing, signed and witnessed, there are wider issues here such as proving a will on a mobile phone was prepared by the hand of the person in whose name it was created, and that person intended it to form their will. Then there’s the issue of phone security in general and what might happen if you lost your mobile phone. Nobody should keep irreplaceable and sensitive documents on a mobile phone.” Quite.

We appreciate the deceased in this case must have been in a desperate state. However, the lesson – as always – is: see a lawyer and get it done properly.

What next? Your Last Will and Testament in 140 characters or less!