You get a call from your mother that you’ve been dreading. Your favorite “Uncle John” has passed away. To your dismay you ask about the funeral plans and if there is anything you can do to help. As the time comes to go through belongings, an unsent text message to your mother was found on his phone, stating he was leaving his small family fortune in you, as you were always his favorite. Now, typically family fortunes are written in bidding wills. So, does that text message constitute as a binding will?
Real Life Case
In Australia, a similar case occurred. A man passed away with an unsent text message to his brother, leaving him everything. However, the wife argued that it did not count as her late husband’s will. Going all the way to Queensland Supreme Court, that text message changed everything.
What is in a Will?
What determines the validity of a will? A last will and testament are legally enforceable and must meet requirements specific to a person’s state, in the United States. A few of those requirements have to do with legal age, witnesses, and must have some sort of signature. Although most wills are written down in some sort of documentation, “nuncupative” wills are said out loud with at least two witnesses.
Back to Brisbane
In the end of the Australian court system case mentioned earlier, the text message was declared by a judge, a valid last will and testament– leaving the brother and the nephew with everything the deceased had appointment them just like the text message stated.
Like in the United States today, in Queensland, a formal typed or handwritten will used to be required by law. However, changes made in 2006 loosened acceptable wills to a more informal approach, which leads to how a drafted text message was a legal will.
As we progress into a digital age, there is no question that electronic last will and testaments will become legal. Wills were formed where most people easily had pen and paper at hand. Today, we all have a heavy reliance on mobile devices and tablets, replacing the necessity of pen and paper.
The English Law Commission already has made a proposal for electronic wills. It proposes that voicemails, text messages, emails, videos and other forms of electronic statements should serve as a valid will.
This issue of validity among electronic wills is not only something debated in Queensland, Australia and England, but is something we can expect to see come with a digital age in the United States, and other countries as well as the years progress.