Court rules unwitnessed iPhone “will” is valid
Here’s a story from Australia that should cause a gnashing of teeth among probate lawyers everywhere but, in what is believed to be a legal first in Queensland, and possibly Australia, the Supreme Court has ruled that a will typed into the smartphone but not written out or signed is still valid.
Estate litigation lawyer (and Insider reader) Charlie Young, a senior associate & estate litigation lawyer with Brisbane law firm Bennett & Philp Lawyers, 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 execute the will’s instructions as it did not comply with legal requirements (such as the will being in writing, signed and witnessed). Justice Peter Lyons declared the iPhone will was valid and probate was granted.
“The court’s declaration that a will typed and saved on a mobile phone constitutes a valid will is, I believe, a first in Queensland, if not Australia,” Mr Young said.
“Although the will was not witnessed 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. 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.
“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,” he said. “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.”