An unsent SMS, a message on a tractor, a poem: the courts say a valid will can take many forms

An unsent SMS, a message on a tractor, a poem: the courts say a valid will can take many forms

An unsent SMS, a message on a tractor, a poem: the courts say a valid will can take many forms

Click here to view original web page at An unsent SMS, a message on a tractor, a poem: the courts say a valid will can take many forms

When a man died by suicide in 2016, a friend found an unsent SMS on his phone:

Dave Nic you and Jack keep all that I have house and superannuation, put my ashes in the back garden with Trish Julie will take her stuff only she’s ok gone back to her ex AGAIN I’m beaten. A bit of cash behind TV and a bit in the bank Cash card pin 3636 MRN190162Q 10/10/2016 My will

Following a dispute between the man’s widow and his brother and nephew, the Supreme Court of Queensland decided the message was a valid will.

The case represents a growing body of legal decisions reflecting how the digital age is challenging the courts.

Read more: Five things to do before you die – because planning your eventual demise takes preparation

The changing definition of the word ‘document’

The courts have had to consider whether DVDs and digital videos , iPhone notes , Microsoft Word documents , encrypted computer files and other digital artefacts count at valid wills or amendments.

In the UK, the Law Commission is reviewing the law of wills to decide whether it should reflect the ubiquity of digital technologies.

Except in very limited exceptional circumstances, a will is a document. To be a valid formal will, there are certain requirements: it must be in writing, on paper, signed by the testator, witnessed by other people, and formally executed. Specific formal language is encouraged.

In law, documents – more than witnesses or physical objects – have become the most important form of evidence.

But in the digital age, the distinction between a document, a witness and real evidence is becoming more difficult to perceive, and pointless to sustain.

What we understand as a “document” has expanded to include a potentially limitless range of digital forms and devices.

Challenges abound. Digital documents are long, ubiquitous, intangible, difficult to authenticate, easy to duplicate and modify. They sometimes bring more questions than answers.

The case of the unsent SMS

The Supreme Court of Queensland had no difficulty in finding that the unsent text message was a document. However, it was not a formal will. Informal wills can still be valid in some circumstances. The court noted that the unsent message was identified as a will, dated, contained the deceased’s initials and date of birth (“MRN190162”).

It identified most of his assets, included clear wishes about their distribution, provided a pin code and gave instructions about his ashes.

The court also considered his state of mind at the time of his death, determining he had sufficient capacity to make a will. It considered the fact the man didn’t send the text message: did it mean that his will was still in draft form and did not reflect his final wishes?

The court accepted evidence that he did not send the message so that his family would not interrupt his suicide. Despite lacking nearly all of the formalities of a will, it was found to be his valid last will and testament.

A court might look for clues wherever possible – even in the deceased draft messages folder.

The case of the tractor fender will

Courts have had to consider whether an eggshell , a tractor fender, a petticoat hem graffiti on a wall , and a poem might be valid wills.

In 1948, Cecil George Harris died following an accident on his Saskatchewan wheat farm. He had been trapped underneath his tractor for 12 hours in torrential rain. His wife and neighbours eventually found him during a lightning storm. Despite their best efforts, he died of his injuries.

Two of his curious neighbours went to examine Harris’ stricken tractor and found that message he’d scratched into the paint on the fender:

In case I die in this mess I leave all to the wife. Cecil Geo. Harris

An extract from ‘In Case I Die In This Mess’, an episode of the podcast History Lab, from Impact Studios at the University of Technology, Sydney.

The neighbours removed the fender after his funeral and conveyed it to a local lawyer. It was eventually held to be Harris’ last will and testament. Because this case is now a quirky landmark of Saskatchewan succession law, the fender and the knife Harris used to carve his message are now on display in the library of the University of Saskatchewan law school.

What would the deceased have wanted?

Grief, generosity, love, regret, hate, spite, retribution, eccentricity: the full gamut of human emotions are revealed in a person’s will, and in the conduct of their beneficiaries and descendants after death.

Probate courts are required to walk into this emotional minefield, and ask: what would the deceased have wanted?

When a deceased person hasn’t left a will, or they’ve left one that’s deficient, the court looks for clues.

And, as history tells us, the courts have often acted with considerable sensitivity and flexibility in trying to do justice to the dead.

If this article has raised issues for you, or if you’re concerned about someone you know, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

In Case I Die In This Mess was made by Impact Studios at the University of Technology, Sydney – a new audio production house combining academic research and audio storytelling. It is the first episode in a four part series titled ‘The Law’s Way of Knowing’, available for download through the award-winning UTS History Lab podcast.

An unsent SMS, a message on a tractor, a poem: the courts say a valid will can take many forms

An unsent SMS, a message on a tractor, a poem: the courts say a valid will can take many forms

An unsent SMS, a message on a tractor, a poem: the courts say a valid will can take many forms

Click here to view original web page at An unsent SMS, a message on a tractor, a poem: the courts say a valid will can take many forms

When a man died by suicide in 2016, a friend found an unsent SMS on his phone:

Dave Nic you and Jack keep all that I have house and superannuation, put my ashes in the back garden with Trish Julie will take her stuff only she’s ok gone back to her ex AGAIN I’m beaten. A bit of cash behind TV and a bit in the bank Cash card pin 3636 MRN190162Q 10/10/2016 My will

Following a dispute between the man’s widow and his brother and nephew, the Supreme Court of Queensland decided the message was a valid will.

The case represents a growing body of legal decisions reflecting how the digital age is challenging the courts.

Read more: Five things to do before you die – because planning your eventual demise takes preparation

The changing definition of the word ‘document’

The courts have had to consider whether DVDs and digital videos , iPhone notes , Microsoft Word documents , encrypted computer files and other digital artefacts count at valid wills or amendments.

In the UK, the Law Commission is reviewing the law of wills to decide whether it should reflect the ubiquity of digital technologies.

Except in very limited exceptional circumstances, a will is a document. To be a valid formal will, there are certain requirements: it must be in writing, on paper, signed by the testator, witnessed by other people, and formally executed. Specific formal language is encouraged.

In law, documents – more than witnesses or physical objects – have become the most important form of evidence.

But in the digital age, the distinction between a document, a witness and real evidence is becoming more difficult to perceive, and pointless to sustain.

What we understand as a “document” has expanded to include a potentially limitless range of digital forms and devices.

Challenges abound. Digital documents are long, ubiquitous, intangible, difficult to authenticate, easy to duplicate and modify. They sometimes bring more questions than answers.

The case of the unsent SMS

The Supreme Court of Queensland had no difficulty in finding that the unsent text message was a document. However, it was not a formal will. Informal wills can still be valid in some circumstances. The court noted that the unsent message was identified as a will, dated, contained the deceased’s initials and date of birth (“MRN190162”).

It identified most of his assets, included clear wishes about their distribution, provided a pin code and gave instructions about his ashes.

The court also considered his state of mind at the time of his death, determining he had sufficient capacity to make a will. It considered the fact the man didn’t send the text message: did it mean that his will was still in draft form and did not reflect his final wishes?

The court accepted evidence that he did not send the message so that his family would not interrupt his suicide. Despite lacking nearly all of the formalities of a will, it was found to be his valid last will and testament.

A court might look for clues wherever possible – even in the deceased draft messages folder.

The case of the tractor fender will

Courts have had to consider whether an eggshell , a tractor fender, a petticoat hem graffiti on a wall , and a poem might be valid wills.

In 1948, Cecil George Harris died following an accident on his Saskatchewan wheat farm. He had been trapped underneath his tractor for 12 hours in torrential rain. His wife and neighbours eventually found him during a lightning storm. Despite their best efforts, he died of his injuries.

Two of his curious neighbours went to examine Harris’ stricken tractor and found that message he’d scratched into the paint on the fender:

In case I die in this mess I leave all to the wife. Cecil Geo. Harris

An extract from ‘In Case I Die In This Mess’, an episode of the podcast History Lab, from Impact Studios at the University of Technology, Sydney.

The neighbours removed the fender after his funeral and conveyed it to a local lawyer. It was eventually held to be Harris’ last will and testament. Because this case is now a quirky landmark of Saskatchewan succession law, the fender and the knife Harris used to carve his message are now on display in the library of the University of Saskatchewan law school.

What would the deceased have wanted?

Grief, generosity, love, regret, hate, spite, retribution, eccentricity: the full gamut of human emotions are revealed in a person’s will, and in the conduct of their beneficiaries and descendants after death.

Probate courts are required to walk into this emotional minefield, and ask: what would the deceased have wanted?

When a deceased person hasn’t left a will, or they’ve left one that’s deficient, the court looks for clues.

And, as history tells us, the courts have often acted with considerable sensitivity and flexibility in trying to do justice to the dead.

If this article has raised issues for you, or if you’re concerned about someone you know, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

In Case I Die In This Mess was made by Impact Studios at the University of Technology, Sydney – a new audio production house combining academic research and audio storytelling. It is the first episode in a four part series titled ‘The Law’s Way of Knowing’, available for download through the award-winning UTS History Lab podcast.

21st Century Considerations for Estate Planning: Digital Assets

21st Century Considerations for Estate Planning: Digital Assets

21st Century Considerations for Estate Planning: Digital Assets

Click here to view original web page at 21st Century Considerations for Estate Planning: Digital Assets

Image by FamZoo Staff, via Flickr

Why do I need an estate plan? The answers can be as varied as the individuals who pose the question. Reasons often mentioned include preserving assets, protecting beneficiaries and reducing death taxes. Certainly, the purpose of the core document of any estate plan, the Last Will and Testament, is to provide the testator with a means to state to whom their property will be distributed following death. Historically, wills were used most often by men who had no biological descendants, to devise their land. In modern times, one of the primary reasons for having an estate plan was tax avoidance. Understandably, individuals seek legal means to reduce or avoid potential estate tax liability and trust and estate practitioners are able to oblige through carefully drafted estate planning documents. In light of recent state and federal tax law changes, death taxes are no longer the primary reason the majority of individuals seek to complete their estate plans, as only the wealthiest individuals’ estates are subject to estate tax. So, if not to escape taxation, why do people need an estate plan?

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This Hackathon Winner Can Help Pass On Your Bitcoins After You Die

This Hackathon Winner Can Help Pass On Your Bitcoins After You Die

— Robert Schwentker (@schwentker) February 27, 2017

“I’ve been learning about blockchain [technology] for the past three months, and I wanted to learn more by doing,” said Nguyen. The self-taught blockchain developer also said that his inspiration for the project came from the realization that there are many reasons why it is beneficial for people to have some kind of plan — or, in this case, a protocol — to help deal with unexpected and tragic events.

Nguyen admitted that, at the beginning of the hackathon, he quickly discovered one of his project’s biggest obstacles would be determining how to encrypt so much sensitive data and ensure that it remains private.

The Hackathon

Organized by BTC Media, the Distributed: Markets 24-Hour Hackathon took place at Switchyards Downtown Club in Atlanta, Georgia, from February 24–25. The challenge was to build a blockchain application using the APIs, SDKs and other developer tools “to power the financial infrastructure of the future.”

While the hackathon showcased the talent of students, developers and aspiring entrepreneurs from across the United States, all shared a unique passion for exploring how blockchains can solve technological problems.

“Blockchain [technology] has always been a hobby,” said Chris Magistrado, a malware researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology with background in information security. “I started with [a] Princeton Coursera course on Bitcoin and Blockchain. I’m looking for new job opportunities and the hackathon gives me the chance to show my marketability and my talent.”

Working with Josh Vorick and Milind Lingineni, Magistrado’s team took second place for their project, Bazaar Loans. The team used the decentralized marketplace, OpenBazaar, to establish a crowdfunding-type “Get a loan” feature to the system, giving users the option to support their preferred merchants. The key to Bazaar Loans is that it is intended to improve the economic and social system of OpenBazaar. That being said, the most difficult part of the project for the team was determining how to deal with merchants who might not pay back their loans.

Second Place: LoanBazaar: P2P loans for @openbazaar w/ @ShapeShift_io @ethereumproject @cmagistradohttps://t.co/jMR4oIPlJg#distmarkets pic.twitter.com/x2uk6TkYSF— Robert Schwentker (@schwentker) February 27, 2017

“A blockchain hackathon has multiple benefits,” explained master of ceremony and chief #hackathon Twitterer Robert Schwentker (@schwentker) just before the judges announced the winners. Schwentker is the co-founder of Blockchain University, as well as an educator, organizer, speaker and overall expert on blockchain technology.

He made it clear that hackathons give developers a chance to learn about and experiment with new technology. They are also great networking opportunities. Schwentker also explained that hackathons are essentially résumé builders. “Besides potential prize money, the competition gives winners recognition for their talent. They can leverage that recognition as a badge of success to show investors.” Schwentker’s role in both helping devise the judging criteria and aiding participants in articulating the value of their ideas was critical to the hackathon’s success.

“I’ve invested in a few startups that have come out of blockchain hackathons,” said Jeremy Gardner, hackathon judge, venture capitalist and founder of the Blockchain Education Network.

“I liked Coffee Chain,” said hackathon judge and TSYS Director of Innovation Russell Moore, speaking of the third-place winner. “I want to track my coffee and know where it comes from — immutability could prove organics.”

Moore attends hackathons to keep track of disruptive technology, but he also loves witnessing competitors present solutions to technology problems. In his opinion, immutability is one of the central problems that blockchain technology solves. “If you don’t have a trust issue then you don’t need a blockchain.”

The other two judges were Chris Kleeschulte, Senior Software Engineer at BitPay, and Dmitry Prudnikov, CTO, at Bitsane.

— Robert Schwentker (@schwentker) February 27, 2017

Robert Schwentker summarized a good hackathon project best when talking with the Bazaar Loans team: “Why only create the doorknob to a 100-story building when in the same amount of time, you can create an awesome tent: The goal is a functional mockup, not a blueprint.”

An honorable mention went to the Bitscript team, who developed a web-based Bitcoin script editor.

Here’s a list of some of the other notable projects from the Distributed: Markets hackathon:

SpotMe: a P2P crowdfunded loans feature for urban payday loan users

BitFunnel: anchors IoT data to the Bitcoin blockchain for the oil industry

StockYard: a decentralized commodities market for high-value unique items

FreightChain: a decentralized shipping insurance platform for consumers to insure delivery of parcels

Substrate: a blockchain-powered mesh network for IoT devices

CryptoPOS: a Poynt POS for digital currency checkout

The two-day event preceded the Distributed: Markets conference held on Monday at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in downtown Atlanta.

Who will get your iTunes when you die?

An electronic immortality

Human fascination with immortality stretches back to the time of Greek mythology with history littered by charlatans, oddballs and megalomaniacs either claiming or seeking the secret to eternal life.

However, the modern tech-savvy generation has discovered, quite by chance, that an immortality of sorts is now freely available via the digital footprint they leave should they meet an untimely end.  It’s estimated that on Facebook alone, more than 30 million accounts belong to people who are deceased.

As if the pain of coping with the death of a loved one isn’t difficult enough, friends and family must now consider the implications of the deceased’s online life to go with their material existence.

Your online footprint
Think for a moment about your own digital presence.  You’ll almost certainly use online banking and shopping facilities, perhaps an online wallet like PayPal, email accounts, a frequent flyer program, a social media presence via Facebook or Twitter, along with potentially thousands of personal files, receipts and photographs.

Most people already understand the importance of estate planning to help pass on worldly goods such as housing, savings and mementos to their beneficiaries.  But how will your heirs even gain access to your computer and your passwords?

Like so many laws relating to the digital world, many are outdated or irrelevant, and several online services have already established their own policies.  For instance, Twitter allows family or friends to download a copy of your public tweets and close your account.  You need to nominate someone in advance to provide their name and contact details, their relationship to you, your Twitter username and a link to or copy of your obituary.

Digital executors
No laws currently exist in Australia to grant a Will’s executor automatic access to someone’s social media accounts.  However, there are still several options available to help decide on how your online legacy is managed.

The first step is to create a Digital Will.  In addition, you will need to select a trustworthy digital executor to handle arrangements for your digital assets and digital legacy once you are gone.  Similarly, if you run your own business, it will have its own digital incarnation and its own digital legacy to maintain.  Some Australian Will makers offer Digital Wills so people can ensure their online legacy lives on – or fades away – in accordance with their wishes.

Online vaults for safe storage
An increasingly popular alternative is to store important documents and passwords in an online vault.  The likes of SecureSafe, Legacy Lockboxor Assets in Order pledge to provide secure online storage of passwords and documents.

Password management accounts can be set up using software such as Norton Identity Safe while Google recently introduced a new program called Inactive Account Manager, which enables you to choose in advance exactly what you wish to have done with all your Google data – from Gmail accounts to YouTube videos.

Considering how much of our communication takes place online these days, it’s worth investing some time thinking about your digital footprint and what is required to manage it when you’re gone.  A good time to do this might be when next reviewing your Wills and Powers of Attorney.  With a little thought and preparation, you can leave a lasting legacy to your loved ones, well beyond photos or videos, and avoid complications associated with your ‘digital immortality’.