In a recent Australian case, the Queensland Supreme Court ruled that an unsent draft text message constituted a valid Will.
Briefly, the facts of the case concerned a 55-year-old man who composed a text message addressed to his brother. The message gave details on how to access the man’s hidden money and the distribution of his assets to his brother and nephew, ending with the words “my Will”. The court held that the informal nature of the message did not stop it representing the man’s intentions.
This decision reflects the changes that have taken place in Australian law and demonstrates a move away from the English law on Wills. However, even though less formal documents can be considered as a Will, this should not be taken as a fix for a cost-effective estate plan as it is an uncertain exercise.
In any event, the courts in England are unlikely to decide such a case in the same way. However, this ruling shows that the laws governing Wills are being modernised around the world to take account of the changes in society, technology and medical understanding.
In England, the Law Commission is currently running a consultation to review whether certain changes should be made to the current laws. In particular, among others, the Commission is looking at:
- The emergence and increasing reliance upon digital technology when making a Will such as the use of text messages, emails and videos;
- The evolution of the medical understanding of disorders that could affect a person’s ability to make a Will;
- Changing patterns of family life such as cohabiting couples; and
- The ageing population and the greater incidence of dementia.
For the time being, it is important to note that the English courts still require that Wills meet certain requirements, which include the following:
- The Will must be made in writing, and signed by the person making the Will;
- The person making the Will must intend to give effect to the Will by their signature; and
- The signature must be made or acknowledged by the person making the Will in the presence of two or more witnesses at the same time.
It is therefore crucial to follow the above steps when making a Will as a poorly drafted document without following the said requirements can lead to unnecessary cost, stress and confusion among families.
If you would like to find out more information on our Will drafting service, contact Colman Coyle Solicitors on +44 (0)20 7354 3000.