Drafting a will is not a priority for many of us until later in life. As a result, lawyers often find themselves coming across unique and non-traditional versions of wills that are deemed illegitimate by law.
Estate litigation lawyer, Charlie Young, said that while non-professionally drafted wills can be interesting, they aren’t cheap to probate in court.
“A will drafted with professional assistance should avoid any potential interpretation problems and result in a valid, legal document,” Mr Young said.
“We often see instances where people have tried to do it themselves to save a few dollars or leave it to the last minute, only to result in huge arguments between those left behind as to what the deceased meant in the will or whether the will should be valid at all.”
Mr Young believes anyone over the age of 18 should have a will.
It can be a daunting idea but having a properly prepared will makes things so much easier for the people left behind.”
Here he shares some of the stranger “wills” Bennett & Philp has come across.
The Chicken Scratch Will
One case Mr Young dealt with involved a person suffering from a terminal illness who visited his local lawyer to prepare his will.
“At the appointment, the lawyer took what could best be described as barely legible scrawl on a notepad but no will was completed at the time,” he said.
“Unfortunately, the gentleman passed away the next morning and we had to perform a substantial amount of work for the executor in asking the court to approve the lawyer’s notations as his last will, which it did.”
The Post-It Note Will
A middle-aged woman left small Post-It Notes on her will. The Post-It Notes set out what appeared to be the woman’s updated wishes as to what was to happen with her estate.
“When this came across my colleague’s desk, she knew it wasn’t going to be an easy case. After almost a year of litigation, the court ordered that the Post-It Notes were to be operative as the deceased’s last will.”
The Witnessed-But-Not-Witnessed Will
A will must not only be signed by the will-maker, but also by two persons who witnessed the will-maker’s signature. Any missing parts result in the legal requirements not being met. So, when Mr Young received a will containing signatures for the witnesses but not for the will-maker herself, he knew it was one he needed to take to court.
“Unfortunately, one aspect missing from a legal document can make all the difference and be a very costly exercise. The law sets out very strict requirements as to how a will must be executed,” Mr Young said.
“In this case, we had to track down the witnesses and explain in great detail for the court how they came to sign the document as witnesses when they didn’t actually witness anything. The document was ultimately approved by the court as being the deceased’s last will.”
The iPhone Will
Given almost everyone is now using Smartphones, it is not surprising to know that people have tried to make wills on mobile devices.
“The circumstances of the first smartphone will were very sad. A young man faced an intense personal crisis and carefully typed out his wishes on the Notes application in his phone shortly before ending his life,” Mr Young said.
“The executor, who was the man’s brother, could not implement the will’s instructions because it did not comply with legal requirements, though the Judge declared it valid and the probate was granted.
“At the time, I thought the court’s declaration that a will typed and saved on a mobile phone constituted a valid will was a first in Queensland, if not Australia.”
Deciding what to put in your will and where to start can be daunting, though knowing your assets and beneficiaries are cared for could help put your mind at ease.
If you are dealing with a Will which you believe has problems and require assistance, you can get in touch with Charlie and the rest of our team via our Contact Us page.
Individual liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation (personal injury work exempted).