If a will is drafted on a mobile phone, is it valid? Not likely say US estate advisers…

digital afterlife or legacy on phone

“Michal Zacharzewski, SXC”

A recent court ruling in Queensland, Australia determined that a will that had been drafted on an iPhone was valid. This prompted IT Law Firm IdeaLaw to ask, could wills drafted on social media and in other informal scenarios be deemed as legally valid in the future?*

While it has been suggested as a possibility in Australia, this feature attracted some interesting feedback from legal and estate planning representatives in the US who indicated that this would depend on the state. However, in mentioned cases it was considered unlikely – at least, for the foreseeable future.

“For the US, that will depend on each state’s laws,” replied Jeff Dundon, Director, Gift Planning at UC Foundation. “It would not be considered a holographic will in Ohio and does not meet the requirements of written signed by testator and at least two independent witnesses. A statutory change could make it possible but I can foresee a lot of issues and contests for a ‘smart phone’ will.”

Reeve Chudd, Partner, Ervin, Cohen & Jessup added, “Not in California. We only have two types of Wills — (a) signed by the testator and witnessed by at least two independent witnesses, and (b) entirely in the testator’s handwriting which is signed and dated (holographic Will). Video Wills don’t work either.”

Dave Towers, a Gift Planning Officer at Victoria Hospital Foundation in Canada had the final say however, referring to a recent anniversary of a will drafted in extraordinary circumstances over 60 years ago. He pointed to a farmer’s last wishes that he etched onto the fender of a tractor after it fell on him during an accident. These were later accepted by a court in Saskatchewan.

A judge at the time ordered the fender portion of the tractor to be cut off and it has been displayed under a piece of glass in the Saskatchewan Law College Library ever since.

*IdeaLaw’s full analysis: “Can a document on a smartphone be a valid will?”

How to capture email, text and chat conversations from a screen

mobile burst applicationsRecently I wrote that when going through and organising DB’s effects after his death, I came across a printed copy of our first email conversation that he had hoarded away with other paperwork. My messages had been sent from an email account that I had forgotten about and hadn’t used for over ten years. When I decided to log into the account again to reclaim our old correspondence, I realised that the company had since been acquired twice, renamed and that my membership no longer existed. Later conversations were lost. At the time, it was heart wrenching.

So I’ve been on a mission to avoid the same situation happening again, looking into apps and services that exist to help people capture correspondence via text, chat and email.

You can get email, phone, text and chat management systems that archive and back up all correspondence (particularly useful for business or for legal purposes) but the options below are for capturing specific conversations you want to keep as memories. They are mostly straightforward and also eye catching.

Surprisingly, there seem to be relatively few options out there but here some that I’ve discovered with costs ranging from free to those sitting on the higher side of the price spectrum. If you are aware of others that you can share, please post below. I’d love to hear about them.

A heads up. These services do not work if you are trying to capture conversations with someone who has a memorialised Facebook account (what is Facebook memorialisation?). Memorialised accounts do not show up in the search functions of the services below integrating Facebook, I suspect because Facebook does not provide access. As a result, it’s not possible to download the conversations you’ve had with deceased Facebook members whose pages are memorialised, even if you’re trying to do so from your own account.

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What happens to someone’s mobile phone account when they die? (AU)

mobile_phone_account_close_someone_dies_death

Credit: Lizerixt

Away For a Bit asked major Australian mobile operators about their policies on how next of kin can close accounts on behalf of someone who has died. Read what mobile operator policies are in the UK. No operators were able to state categorically what costs a family member or friend would need to cover from the deceased’s estate when finalising bills or if they required a handset to be returned in the event that one was included in the account plan. Vodafone did however state that the company does not generally expect the return of the handset or settlement of bills.

Telstra perhaps offered the most comprehensive overview of how their account closure worked in these circumstances, followed by Vodafone. Optus was pretty vague in offering details but did provide a customer number for the bereaved to call in such circumstances.

Here’s a line up of the major Australian mobile operators and what they outlined as their account closing policies for someone who has died.

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How to record a voice mail message from a mobile phone

I received this note recently…

My sister died two months ago and her husband is looking into the various tasks which relate to her estate and closing her accounts. He is considering closing down her mobile phone account, something that I’ve been reluctant to entertain because we spent a lot of time talking on the phone (we used to speak daily). I miss her voice so much and I like to phone and listen to her voice mail message which will disappear when the account is cancelled. Any suggestions on how I can record and keep this message? Is this something that the mobile operator can do for me? I’m not particularly tech savvy.” S.A., NSW.

It’s very tough to close down accounts in this type of situation because the act itself is so final. Another reminder that someone’s time with us is over. My heart goes out to anyone going through this process.

When it comes to voice mail, there are many options for recording a message, ranging from ‘do-it-yourself’ options through to outsourcing the task to companies who will do the job for you.

Speaking to various businesses, I asked what they did when they needed to capture high quality recordings in a relatively straightforward way.

Simon Crunden, Director of TravelProcure, a company providing travel management consultancy to government, academia and corporates suggested using Pamela Skype (www.pamela.biz).

To use it, you simply download the app on your mobile or desktop, and make a call using your Skype account. When the call connects, you have the option to start to record the conversation using Pamela. When you finish the conversation, the call is automatically saved as an MP3 file into a folder on your computer.

He offers a word of caution for users planning or thinking of recording a conversation. Users need to be aware that before they record a conversation, they should seek the persons consent, as it may be illegal to do it in some jurisdictions.

Mark Rennie, Sales Director for Phonenomena, a company that service large mobile customers of Telstra in Australia told me that he experienced this type of request a number of years ago. At the time, the company had to use a sensitive microphone to make the recording from the phone’s speaker phone. Today though, it is much easier using other technologies.

Mark suggests using a Skype service such as Skype Call Recorder or if you have a mac, you can use the audio recording tools contained in Garage Band. He also recommends looking at solutions that are available via an apps search, for instance this call recorder app on iTunes. This example is a pay-per-call solution that calls over the internet to capture the message.

Finally, if you’d like to get someone else to do this for you, there are companies that will do this for a fee. Voicemailsforever.com is one such example, helping people to save their voice mails in an mp3 format.

Here’s wishing you the best of luck in capturing that voice mail message.

Got a question about managing a digital afterlife or estate issue? Drop a line to emily@awayforabit.com.

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