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Digital Is Changing Legal Definition of 'Will'

Courts are taking a fresh look at what is accepted as a will.

An Australian court recently accepted an unsent text message as a valid will, according to Fox News in "Unsent text message OK as valid will, says Australian court."

Determining that the will presented to the court is valid has always been a challenge. In order to overcome this problem, estate law adopted formal requirements for wills, such as a will is signed by the will maker with witnesses present.

If the formal requirements were met, courts could assume the document in question was a valid will. In some places writings that did not meet the formal requirements could be accepted as valid wills. However, this true only if the evidence to prove that the writing was intended as a will.

When something is now written using digital technology, it is easier for courts to determine whether or not a particular piece of writing was meant as a will.

In the Australian case, shortly before committing suicide, a man drafted a detailed message to his brother leaving his modest estate to the brother and a nephew at the exclusion of his wife who had recently decided to leave him.

Just because a court can use digital technology to determine that something is a will does not mean a court will do that in any particular case.

An estate planning attorney can advise you on creating a will that fits your unique circumstances and meets the legal requirements of your state of residence.

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