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iPhone Wills - When is Cash not Cash?

The case study below highlights the importance of seeking legal advice when you create a will, even if you write your will on an iPhone!  

Can you do that, I hear you ask.... 

The short answer is yes but only if you want to have many thousands of dollars spent on an application to the Supreme Court.  
 
No matter how or where you create your will legal advice is imperative as words and terms that appear straightforward and obvious to you, may be challenged.  Mr Yu’s executors needed to make two Supreme Court applications - once to determine if an iphone Will is a Will and secondly what “cash” meant – specifically if "cash" included $300,000 in superannuation and insurance payouts.  A well drafted will would have avoided both applications to the Supreme Court and Mr Yu could of had confidence that his wishes were carried out.   

Moral of the story – while a will on your iPhone, computer, napkin, wall or notebook may be a will, it is far easier and cheaper to make an appointment with our estates team and sign a well drafted Will that reflects your wishes.  

Yu vs Yu & Ors (2015) QSC373

Karter Yu took his own life in September 2011.  Shortly before Mr Yu passed away, he created a series of documents in the "notes" application on his iphone.  

 One "note" was, after an application to the Supreme Court in 2013, admitted to probate as Mr Yu's final Will.  The Court held that the note was "a document", which purported to state the "testamentary intentions" of Mr Yu and was intended to form a Will. 

 
Unfortunately, Mr Yu's executor needed to make a second application to the Supreme Court in 2015 for directions given the uncertainty of what the Will actually meant. 
 
After making specific gifts of video games, an Xbox, Playstation and TV, as well as unit, Mr Yu left "the remainder of my cash" to four named beneficiaries.  The issues was then what was cash and what wasn't cash. 
 
My Yu's estate consisted of approximately $62,000 in bank accounts (which the Court had no issue determining was "cash") as well as approximately $300,000 in superannuation and insurance proceeds.  Were the super and insurance policies proceeds "cash"?  If they were, the funds were to be divided to the four named beneficiaries.  If they weren't, the funds were to be distributed to a sole beneficiary. 
 
The Court considered Mr Yu's intention by examining the words used in the Will, giving the words their usual meaning and taken from the context used in the Will.  After doing so, the Court determined that the insurance payouts and superannuation were not cash.  As such, one beneficiary received these funds.    
 
It will never be known if this determination was what Mr Yu intended.  It would however be a reasonable conclusion that Mr Yu wouldn't have intended for two Supreme Court applications - which were undoubtedly both expensive and time consuming, delaying the administration of his estate and its size.  Care needs to be taken to ensure that specific gifts don't adeem or lapse and a well drafted Will would avoid the numerous issues encountered by Mr Yu's executor. 

 

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