Queensland Supreme Court allows unsent text message to stand as will

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Queensland’s Supreme Court ruled on Monday that a dead man’s unsent text message – composed on his phone shortly before he died – may pass of as his official will.

Under the state’s laws, a deceased’s next of kin – such as a spouse – becomes the manager of his or her estate if a will is not prepared.  Court documents showed that the deceased and his wife had relationship problems, and that she had left him on at least three occasions, the final time being two days prior to his death.

Although she moved out, she still made arrangements to take him to mental health appointments, and spent the weekend with him before his death, the documents added.

The man took his own life in October last year. His phone was found next to his body. The following day, the wife requested a friend to scour the phone’s contact list to determine who should be informed of his death.  

The friend then found an unsent text message that bequeathed the man’s house and superannuation to his brother and nephew. The message also contained the PIN of his cash card, and instructions on where he wanted his ashes to be buried.

It also contained an abbreviation that matched his initials and date of birth, as well as the words “My will”.

The man’s wife asked the court to forego the will, as the text was never sent. The Queensland government’s website also says that will are valid if they’re made by individuals at least 18 years old and of sound mind, memory and understanding. They must also be written and signed in front of two witnesses who are at least 18 years old, not visually impaired, and are not beneficiaries of the will.

In her ruling, Justice Susan Brown said there were a number of elements in the unsent text message that suggested it was a will, such as instructions on where his ashes will be placed, as well as an order that his wife “will take her stuff only”.

“The informal nature of the text does not exclude it from being sufficient to represent the deceased’s testamentary intentions,” said the judge. She also ruled that suicide does not count against the man’s intention to have the text message operate as his will.

“The terms of the text message and his specification that it was “my will” and that it addressed the disposition of his assets shows that the deceased appreciated the significance of what he was doing by creating the text message,” she added.

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