Legal Hypothetical: Is a suicide note a will?


Is a suicide note a will?

Harry sadly ends his own life, leaving a handwritten but unsigned and undated note.

Harry was married to Linda but they were separated at the date of his death.

The note is addressed “to whom it may concern” and leaves “all assets” to Linda.

Linda files an application with the Supreme Court of New South Wales, seeking orders that the note be declared to be an “informal will” and that she be appointed as the administrator of Harry’s estate.

In the alternative, Linda seeks a declaration that Harry died without leaving a will and that she is entitled to act as administrator on the basis that she receives the whole of his estate “on intestacy”, as his legal spouse.

The police retain custody of the original note and Linda submits a typed version to the Court, based on a copy.

Linda’s application is opposed by Harry’s siblings, who are beneficiaries under Harry’s previous, duly executed will.

They allege that this will was removed from Harry’s home after his death.

There is no evidence that Harry suffered from any psychological conditions that would have affected his capacity when he wrote the note but there was evidence that Harry was under the influence of alcohol when he passed.

In assessing Linda’s application, the Court notes that in circumstances where there is a missing will, there is a presumption that it was destroyed by Harry with the intention to revoke the will. The Court finds that this presumption was not “rebutted”.

The Court also finds that the note stated Harry’s “testamentary intentions” and that he intended it to form his will.

The Court ultimately orders that the formal requirements of a will, which require execution in the presence of two witnesses, are to be “dispensed with” in the circumstances and that the note entitles Linda to the whole of his estate and to act as administrator.

If YOU would like a particular issue addressed, please email Manny at [email protected] or call him on (02) 6648 7487.


By Manny WOOD, Solicitor

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