Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Digital Wills Valid in Court

Computer 2

Courts are accepting wills composed on computers, smartphones and even webcams as valid legal documents.  Yet an increasing number of disputes are headed to court involving wills left on digital devices.

Celebrity restaurant owner, Daniel Yazbek, initiated the trend for accepting informal digital wills.  Yazbek, who ran the $3 million Toko and Tokonoma Japanese restaurant empire wrote will.doc before his holdiay travels.  On his way to the airport, he told his business partner that there was a will on his computer incase anything went wrong.  Mr. Yazbek committed suicide, and following his death, his brother took their parents to court, arguing will.doc should be upheld despite the fact that it did not possess all necessary legal requirements.  In 2012, Justice Michael Slattery of the NSW Supreme Court deemed the will to be valid because there was a strong showing that Daniel created it and intended it to be his final wishes. 

Since then, a Queensland court upheld a will typed in the “notes” app of an iPhone before he took his own life.  In Victoria, recordings on a webcam were accepted as well.

In all of the aforementioned cases, it was deemed the authors had prepared the documents and they showed clear testamentary intentions.  “These cases are setting a precedent that a will doesn’t have to be a traditional written document on a piece of paper.” 

See Rachel Olding, Being of Sound Mind and Pixels: Wills In the Digital Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, July 26, 2014.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/trusts_estates_prof/2014/07/digital-wills-valid-in-court.html

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