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Queensland court finds a phone video can be a man's legal will
By Stuart Layt
April 18, 2019 — 9.24pm
A smartphone video shot by a man several years before he killed himself can function as his legal will, a Queensland court has found.
Leslie Wayne Quinn took his own life in June 2015 aged 53, leaving behind his wife Leanne Quinn from whom he was separated but not divorced, and three sons: two with Mrs Quinn and an older son from a previous marriage.
He did not have a traditional will, but four years before his death, apparently during a lunch break at his work in 2011, he quickly recorded a video leaving all of his worldly possessions to his wife.
Leslie Wayne Quinn recorded his last will and testament on his phone, which proved good enough for a Queensland court.
Photo: .“In the event of my death, I would like all my goods, my interests in property … my share of those to go to my wife, Leanne Quinn,” Mr Quinn says in the video.
“Anything, any money that I have, cash, I’d like that to go to my wife Leanne.
“That, I think is basically it, so this is my only Will,” he concluded.
Mr Quinn also stipulated that he wanted to be cremated, and did not want a memorial or funeral.
In Queensland, a formal will has to comply with a number of conditions including being in writing and being formally witnessed by people with no personal connection to the person making the will.
If there is no formal will, the Public Trustee of Queensland divides the estate left behind between the person’s immediate family, including their spouse and any children.
Instead, Mrs Quinn made an application to the Public Trustee claiming that the video should be considered Mr Quinn’s formal will, and his estate, valued between $58,611.86 and $108,611.86 and consisting primarily of two blocks of land at Yuleba and Russel Island, pass to her alone.
Senior Judge Administrator of the Supreme Court of Queensland Ann Lyons said it was clear that Mr Quinn had intended the video to function as his will.
“In my view there can be no doubt that Mr Quinn made the recording to make clear what his intentions were in relation to the disposal of his possessions after his death,” she wrote in her judgment this week.
“Mr Quinn called the recording his ‘last will’ in his opening remarks and spoke about the distribution of his property ‘after his death’. He therefore understood it was to operate after his death.”
Mr Quinn had suffered from depression for many years and had been on medication at various points, although he had reportedly stopped taking medication at the time of his death.
However, Justice Lyons found Mr Quinn was of sound mind at the time he made the recording, and indeed seemed upbeat and happy in the video.
“I consider that the terms of the recorded message are rational and there is nothing on the recording that causes me to have the slightest doubt that he had testamentary capacity at the time he made the recording," she said.
“The fact that a person subsequently commits suicide does not necessarily mean that a person lacks testamentary capacity, particularly here where it occurred some four years later."
The court noted Mr Quinn’s eldest son had expressed an opposition to Ms Quinn being the sole beneficiary of the will, but had not formally contested her application and did not give any evidence at the application hearings.
“Having considered the recording I consider that Mr Quinn expressed a firm intention to leave all of his assets to [Ms Quinn],” Justice Lyons said.
“Given the relatively young age of his sons at the time of the recording, such an intention is entirely logical in the circumstances.”
The court relied on a number of other cases where there was no written will, and mentioned cases where “documents” including Word documents written and saved on a smartphone, a DVD and an unsent text message had all been considered valid legal wills in the past.
Jeff Sodoma, MPA, Esq. is a lawyer based in Virginia Beach, Virginia
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