Court Finds Phone Video an Adequate Will. What Does This Tell Us About the Future of Legally Binding Wills?
A judge in the Supreme Court of Queensland has found a video recorded on a deceased man’s phone to be an adequate, legally binding will. The recent decision by Senior Judge Administrator, Ann Lyons saw the deceased’s separated wife appeal to the Public Trustee claiming the video should be considered her husbands legally binding will, as he did not have a traditional one in place upon his death.
What did the court have to say about the will?
Leslie Wayne Quinn took his own life in June 2015. In a video filmed on his phone four years prior, he left all of his possessions to his wife, stating ‘this is my only will’.
In ruling on the decision, the judge stated it was clear from the video the deceased intended to have the will function as legally binding, was of sound mind during the recording and lacked any evidence of diminished capacity at the time it was made.
Typically, in Australia, a will must be written and signed by the person making it (who is over 18) and must include a signature from a witness. It must be further made clear it is your last and final will and you had mental capacity at the time to understand your actions.
The court relied on past cases where a written will was not in place when delivering its verdict. Other cases where a lack of a formal, written document was present included wills presented in word documents, via DVD and unsent text messages.
What does this case tell us about the future of wills?
While it unlikely this case is going to change the requirements of a legally binding will, it does give us some insight into what a judge may take into consideration when ruling on a similar issue. We can see from the judgement, the court has valued the deceased’s’ intention in making it his final will, as well as his capacity and understanding of his actions as opposed to the lack of written documentation.
This type of will has the potential to be easily disputed due to its lack of traditional nature, however, it does further validate the growing acceptance of non-traditional, written wills.