Can an unsent text message be a valid will? Which case won?
Man dies without a formal will
A Queensland man took his own life, leaving behind his wife and several family members.
The man and his wife were married for one year but had been in a relationship for three years. Their relationship was rocky and she had left him on at least three occasions, the final time being some two days before he committed suicide. It was suggested that the wife had said she would leave the man to return to her former husband.
The man did not leave a formal will prepared in accordance with the Succession Act.
Unsent text message found on mobile phone after man’s death
Upon the man’s death, an unsent text message was found on his mobile phone. The text message said:
Dave Nic you and Jack keep all that I have house and superannuation, put my ashes in the back garden with Trish Julie will take her stuff only she’s ok gone back to her ex AGAIN I’m beaten. A bit of cash behind TV and a bit in the bank Cash card pin 3636
The abbreviation “MRN190162Q” matched the man’s initials and date of birth. The date 10/10/2016 was the day that his body was found.
Assets divided differently if no valid will
Under the Succession Act, someone who dies intestate (that is, without a will) has their assets distributed in accordance with a next of kin type of structure. In this case, the man’s estate would have been divided between his wife and his son, with whom he did not have a close relationship and whom he had not seen for some months prior to his death.
However, the man’s unsent text message stated that he wanted his house and superannuation to go to Dave and Jack (his brother and nephew) and explicitly excluded his wife (Julie) from inheriting his assets.
Widow argues that her husband died intestate
After the man’s death, the widow took legal action, arguing that the unsent text message was not a valid will and that her husband should be considered to have died intestate. It was up to the court to determine whether the unsent text message amounted to a valid will.