While the population prepares for possible lockdowns in Australia, we want to let clients, colleagues and Queensland know that we are business as usual.

Much like many of our colleagues at the moment, we are preparing to work from home if it becomes necessary, but this will not affect the work we can do for you.

With the risks associated with COVID-19, it is more important than ever to ensure that you and your loved ones have a proper estate plan in place. We hope that it does not have to be utilised as a result of the coronavirus, but it is important to be prepared in any event.

Queensland legislation sets out the requirements of a valid Will. More often now, we are seeing people prepare documents, which are probably intended to be a Will, but do not fulfil the legal requirements of a Will. However, this does not mean that the document will be deemed an invalid Will. These documents are called “informal Wills.”

Recently, in Canada, a man died who had written his Will on a napkin in a McDonald’s restaurant as he believed he was having a heart attack.[1] On the napkin he wrote the names of his seven children and instructions to split his property evenly between the children. However, he did not die until some months later. The napkin was produced to the Court as a Will but was disputed by one of the deceased’s daughters. A Canadian Judge ruled that it was valid.

There have also been the following cases, where informal Wills have been considered valid by a court:

  • in 2019, in Queensland, a man made a video recording of himself on his mobile phone, expressing his wishes in relation to his estate;[2]
  • in 2017, an unsent text message on the phone of a man was found to be valid;[3] and
  • in 1948, Cecil George Harris became trapped under his tractor on a farm in Saskatchewan, Canada. With a pocket knife, he managed to scratch a message into the tractor fender that he wanted his wife to receive everything in the event of his death.[4]

In all of these instances, the deceased was in a situation where they knew or believed they were going to die, and while courts have accepted these informal Wills, there is no guarantee. Further, applying to the courts to prove the validity of a document is an added cost in an already emotional and stressful time.

We understand preparing a Will can be a morbid, daunting task, and is often something that is put off for as long as possible, but it is more important now than ever to be prepared, especially in these uncertain times.

If you pass without a Will, or your informal Will is deemed to be invalid, there is also the possibility that your estate will not be distributed how you wish or intended.

We can help

If you do not have a Will, talk to a lawyer today to make sure your wishes are fulfilled and your loved ones are looked after in the event of your death.

If you have any questions, or would like to have a chat about your current Will or preparing a Will, Jenna Hutchinson and Laura Hagan of our Wills and Estates Team can be reached on 07 3025 9000. They are happy to answer any questions you may have and are ready to assist you with your estate planning needs.

Most importantly, look after yourselves and each other during this time.