Karter Yu died on 2 September 2011. He took his own life. Shortly before Karter died, he created a series of documents on his iPhone, most of them final farewells, but included a “Will”.
The Supreme Court of Queensland was asked to decide pursuant to Section 18 of the Succession Act 1981 (Qld) whether the electronic document was intended by the deceased to form his last Will and purported to state his testamentary intentions.
Section 36 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1954 (Qld) was considered, which defines a document to include any disc, tape or other article, or any material from which writings are capable of being produced or reproduced, with or without the aid of another article or device. On this basis the iPhone text was therefore a “document”.
The iPhone “Will” prepared by the deceased had the following significant characteristics:
- It commenced with the words “This is the last Will and Testament…………….”
- The deceased formally identified himself together with a reference to his address.
- It demonstrated an intention to appoint Jason Yu as the executor as well as nominating an alternative.
- It authorised the executor to deal with the deceased’s affairs in the event of his death.
- It dealt with all of his property.
- It provided for the distribution of property at a time when the deceased was plainly contemplating his imminent death.
- The deceased typed his name at the end of the text in a place where on a paper document a signature would appear followed by the date and a repetition of his address.
A further consideration for the Court was whether the deceased intended this document to take effect on his death and to form his Will, and to be legally operative so as to dispose of his property upon his death.
Having considered all of these circumstances, the Court found that:
- Pursuant to Section 5 of the Succession Act, the iPhone document was a document for the purposes of Section 18 of that Act.
- The document purported to state the testamentary intentions of the deceased as his intentions were plain, dealt with the whole of the deceased’s property and provided for its distribution and when the deceased was contemplating his death.
- The deceased intended the document on his iPhone to be legally operative and therefore form part of his Will.
Comment: While the Court was willing to admit the iPhone Will to Probate in these circumstances, it is not expected that the usual requirements for a Will to be valid will be relaxed by the Court in the foreseeable future. This case was decided on its facts and it can only be anticipated that if more individuals rely on their electronic devices to create their Will then evidence and therefore, disputes may arise as to the authenticity of such documents, whether the Willmaker really intended to create a Will and whether it does in fact express their testamentary intentions. More importantly, proving that the Willmaker authored the document would be relevant and likely to cause delay and increase legal costs to the estate of admitting the Will to probate.