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Will the English courts ever uphold an iPhone Will?

Last Year an Australian court held that a will saved on the deceased’s iPhone was valid and could be admitted to probate.

In the sad case , shortly before committing suicide, a young man sent various goodbye messages to relatives and friends and then created his last will and testament on the Notes app of his iPhone.

In general, as in England and Wales, a valid Australian Will must comply with certain formalities. This includes it being in writing signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses with the witnesses signing in the presence of the testator. However, the Australian courts have the power to dispense with the formal requirements in certain circumstances provided there is a document purporting to set out the testamentary intentions of the deceased and it is satisfied the deceased intended the document to be his Will. The court was satisfied all three requirements were met and the iPhone Will was admitted to Probate.

There is an exception to the general rule under English law that a valid Will must be properly signed and witnessed. These are known as privileged Wills and are Wills made by soldiers, sailors and airmen on active military service, or seamen at sea. Evidence is needed to satisfy the probate registry of the terms and validity of a privileged will and if the will is not in writing, evidence is needed to show that the testator knew and approved of the contents of the will. 

In this day and age of smart phones and tablets it is likely the courts will have a case similar to the Australian one where the deceased had been on active service or at sea and rather than telling someone his wishes has recorded it in an electronic medium and this be upheld as a privileged Will. However, it may require a change to the law regarding formalities of Will signing before we see an English iPhone Will being admitted to probate.

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