An Australian court has accepted an unsent mobile text message as an official will, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The will, written by a 55-year-old man who took his own life in 2016, was found in the drafts folder of his phone. It contained information on how to access his bank account as well as directions for what to do with his ashes.
In Queensland, if a person dies without a will, the management of their estate is automatically assigned to next of kin. In this case, it would have been the deceased’s wife. However, the text was addressed to the man’s brother, and indicated that the brother and nephew should be the recipients of his house and funds.
"You and [nephew] keep all that I have house and superannuation, put my ashes in the back garden … [wife] will take her stuff only she's ok gone back to her ex AGAIN I'm beaten. A bit of cash behind TV and a bit in the bank Cash card pin … My will"
The man’s wife brought her case to the Queensland Supreme Court in Brisbane, seeking to gain control over the estate and assets. She argued that the text could not be considered as a valid will as it was never sent, but the judge found otherwise. Justice Susan Brown said the wording of the text, including the specific use of “my will” indicated deliberate intention on the man’s part.
"The reference to his house and superannuation and his specification that the applicant was to take her own things indicates he was aware of the nature and extent of his estate, which was relatively small," Justice Brown said. She also weighed documented evidence of the pair’s rocky relationship in making her decision. "The deceased and the applicant had difficulties in their relationship and had separated on a number of occasions for short periods of time, the most recent occasion being just days before the deceased took his own life.”
While current Queensland law states a will must be "signed by you in front of two witnesses, both of whom must be over 18 years old, cannot be visually impaired, and should not be included as beneficiaries in the will" in order to be valid, the law was amended in 2006 to allow for special cases with less formal documentation.