A Supreme Court in Australia accepting a draft and unsent text message as a form of will for the deceased should not “open the floodgates to people making ‘DIY wills’”, a solicitor at Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth has said.
On the news that the Queensland Supreme Court in Brisbane has accepted a draft text message addressed to a deceased man’s brother, in which he gave “all that I have” to him and his nephew, Samantha Lauriston commented that the court “made it clear that there has to be exceptional circumstances for such a will to be held valid”.
The 55 year-old deceased man gave details of how to access his bank account and where he had hidden money in the house in the text message draft. For a will to be accepted in Queensland, where the man resided, it must typically be written and signed by two witnesses.
However, Ms Lauriston highlighted that the law in Queensland was altered in 2006 “to allow less formal types of document” to be considered a will. In the UK, the law does not allow for this, though the Law Commission is consulting on potential will reforms.
According to Ms Lauriston, the consultation will “consider whether the law could be reformed to encourage and facilitate will-making in the 21st century and whether the law should be updated to take account of developments in technology”.
She added: “There are strong arguments to suggest that wills should continue to be drafted in traditional written documents, but it also has to be considered that there would be many advantages to an individual being able to express their testamentary wishes in electronic, audio or audio-visual recording.
“In the age of electronic communications, people’s lives are increasingly conducted online and ultimately, the traditional method of creating a will is set to become outdated. That said, any changes will have to be carefully thought through to make sure that the vulnerable are protected and that the system is not open to abuse.”
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