An informal Will is a document which purports to state the testamentary intentions of a deceased person but has not been executed in accordance with the formal requirements of making a valid Will.
A Queensland Court has found that a smartphone video filmed several years before a man killed himself, can ultimately function as a legal Will.
Leslie Wayne Quinn left behind his wife Leanne Quinn, of whom he had separated but not divorced, and three sons (two with Mrs Quinn and a son from a previous marriage).
During Mr Quinn’s lunch break at work in 2011, he decided to quickly record a video leaving all his possessions to his wife, where he stated:
“In the event of my death, I would like all my goods, my interests in property… my share of those to go to my wife, Leanne Quinn, anything, any money that I have, cash, I’d like that to go to my wife Leanne. That, I think is basically it, so this is my only Will.”
Usually, if there is no formal Will, in Queensland, the Public Trustee of Queensland then divides the estate left behind between the deceased’s immediate family, such as their surviving spouse and any children.
Instead, Mrs Quinn decided to make an application to the Public Trustee claiming that the video should be considered as his formal Will, therefore requiring that his estate only be passed to her.
Senior Judge Administrator of the Supreme Court of Queensland, Ann Lyons, said that it was clear in the video what Mr Quinn’s intentions were and, accordingly, it was to function as his last Will.
“In my view there can be no doubt that Mr Quinn made the recording to make clear what his intentions were in relation to the disposal of his possessions after his death. Mr Quinn called the recording his ‘last Will’ in his opening remarks and spoke about the distribution of his property ‘after his death.’ He therefore understood it was to operate after his death.”
“Having considered the recording I consider that Mr Quinn expressed a firm intention to leave all of his assets to Mrs Quinn, given the relatively young age of his children at the time of the recording, such an intention is entirely logical in the circumstances.”
In a digital age, we need to be more aware of the potential implications of such ‘informal’ wills, particularly in circumstances where the person making such an informal will may not have been given any legal advice.