How About the “Will App” for iPhone?

On September 2, 2011, Karter Wu, a resident of Queensland, Australia, committed suicide.   Just before he took his life, he created a series of documents on his iPhone.  Most of these were final farewells.  However, among them was his expression of his Last Will.

The document began with the words, “This is the Last Will and Testament of Karter Wu.”  The subsequent text detailed his testamentary intentions.  He detailed the beneficiaries of his estate and he appointed an executor and successor executor.  At the end, he typed his name at a spot where a signature would typically be made as well as his address.

The Queensland probate court admitted this document into probate as his Last Will.  It held that an atypical document could be admitted as a Will if it met three conditions: (1) it has to be a document, (2) it has to purport to state the decedent’s intentions, and (3) the decedent had to intend it to form his Will.  The court held that the Wu will met this criteria.

In New Jersey, N.J.S.A. 3B:3-2 allows for writings which do not comply with the formalities of execution to be admitted to probate if clear and convincing evidence exists that a decedent intended same to be his Will.  This statute has led to a growing body of law known as “the doctrine of substantial compliance.”  As such, documents which never would have been considered for probate can now possibly be admitted.

Of course, developments such as these are not to encourage individuals to stray from executing Wills in the correct fashion, as the court fees to required to get a non-complying document into probate dwarf the cost of obtaining counsel for preparation and execution of proper estate planning documents.  Yet it should be noted that there is a possibility that such documents may be admitted to probate when an individual dies without a traditional Will.

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