Millionaire’s Postcard Will Found Valid
A Will scribbled down on the back of a postcard has been found valid by the High Court of New Zealand. The informal Will was drafted by a frugal millionaire just days before she died.
Kathleen Steiner, who died earlier this year aged 59, left an estate worth about $NZ2.8 million (£1.43 million). She is thought to have amassed her fortune by living a thrifty lifestyle. Kathleen was unmarried and had no children.
Despite the nature of the Will – which was drafted on a postcard and a law firm’s notepaper – the document was signed and dated. The Will also included various notes on how the deceased wanted her estate to be allocated. Kathleen had previously declined to prepare a formal Will.
Her sister Margaret, who worked as a legal executive, was named as the person to “sort out who got what of her money”.
The unofficial Will allocated cash gifts to Margaret and another sister, Rosina. However, Kathleen also stipulated that a third sister should receive nothing.
The sisters knew that the documents existed, and where to find them, but they were not touched until after Ms Steiner died.
After Kathleen passed, Margaret applied to the High Court to declare the documents a Will. Margaret explained that she had urged her sister to write a Will. The court also heard a recorded conversation between the pair about making a Will and the gifts Kathleen wished to leave.
Justice Thomas declared that she was satisfied the signed and dated documents revealed Kathleen’s intentions about her estate. As such, she ruled the Will valid and ordered Margaret to be the executor of the estate.
Justice Thomas said: “I place quite some weight on the fact the three documents are all titled as her Will, are signed and all bear the same date.
“In my assessment, read together, they appear to express her testamentary intentions.”
The residue of the estate was ordered to be divided equally between Margaret and Rosina.
Last year, the Australia Supreme Court accepted a draft text message on a dead man’s mobile phone as a legitimate Will. Such cases have led to discussions about what would happen should similar incidents occur in the UK.
As a professional Will writer, what do you think of this case? Would the postcard Will be deemed valid in England and Wales?