An Australian judge recently issued what may be the first court decision of its kind anywhere in the world. Justice Peter Lyons of the Supreme Court of Queensland ruled in early November that a last will and testament found on a suicide victim’s iPhone was admissible to probate. The deceased individual apparently typed the will on the “notes” application of the phone. According to the Brisbane Courier-Mail, Justice Lyons said “although the will had not been witnessed, the young man had created it with the clear intention of it being legal and operative before he ended his life just moments later.” The judge added this was an unusual circumstances and people should not ordinarily prepare wills on their mobile phones.
“Holographic” wills are legal in many common law jurisdictions, including California, but they still must meet certain requirements. In California, a holographic will must be entirely in the maker’s handwriting and signed. Unlike typewritten wills, a holographic will need not be witnessed to be admissible under state law.
It’s important to understand, however, that holographic wills may not be treated the same in every state (or foreign country). That is why they are not recommended as estate planning documents. A recent case from the State of New Jersey helps explain the problems that can arise with holographic wills.