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Are iWills The Way of the Future?

Smartphones sure make lives a lot easier (and, arguably, busier). With a few taps of a screen, individuals can do everything from checking the weather to buying stock to engaging in FaceTime across the world. One individual in Australia recently came up with another innovative use for his smartphone. He used it to prepare his Last Will and Testament shortly before taking his own life.

Karter Yu typed his Will on the Notes application installed on his iPhone, titling the document his "Last Will and Testament." When challenged, the Supreme Court of Queensland, Australia declared the electronic document to be in fact the Will of Mr. Yu, the decedent. Consequently, the document was admitted to probate. The court specifically noted that the document contained the decedent's signature and was automatically time and date stamped by the phone.

While the Australian case presents a unique example of how technology is transforming the world of estate planning, it is not recommended that individuals use the same "do-it-yourself" digital approach. First, electronic communications can easily be lost or outdated as technology rapidly advances. Such communications may also fail to meet the traditional requirements of testamentary formalities (which vary from one jurisdiction to another) and may raise red flags about the document's validity or authenticity. For instance, how can a court be sure that the true author was the decedent and not someone simply using his iPhone? Was the document composed under duress? Was it meant to invalidate a previous Will? Under the current statutes and laws of Kentucky, such "writing" would not qualify as a person's Living Will and Testament.

However, as we move further into the digital age, courts will likely be required to re-examine what type of instrument may qualify as a Will. For now, though, estate planning is best done on paper with the aid of an estate planning attorney. Instead of trying to use your iPhone to write a Will, use it to call an estate planning attorney who can work with you to ensure your estate planning needs are met in accordance with your wishes and within the applicable law.

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Terri R. Stallard is a Member of McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland, PLLC and practices from the Lexington and Louisville offices. Ms. Stallard concentrates her practice in the areas of estate planning, trust and estate administration, and charitable planning. She is licensed to practice law in Kentucky, Georgia, and Tennessee, and in the U.S. Tax Court. She can be reached at tstallard@mmlk.com or (859) 231-8780, ext. 258.

This article is intended as a summary of federal and state law and does not constitute legal advice.

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