16th Sep 2022
Actress Anne Heche recently died. Her ex-boyfriend is claiming an email she sent him in January 2011 should govern who is in charge of her estate and who should receive from her estate. Practically this would be the email acting as her Last Will and Testament (or Will for short). It will be interesting to see how this is resolved in Los Angeles, California.
The Short Answer in Oklahoma
In Oklahoma, to be a valid Last Will and Testament, it must be one of three things:
-A traditional Will (following rules about signing, witnesses, notary / self proving, etc.).
-A holgraphic Will (basically a handwritten Will – I have written quite a bit about these such as here).
-A nuncupative Will (rare military situation type Will).
An Oklahoma Judge would likely rule that this email is not a Will, and should not be admitted to probate and followed. This does not mean there would not be some other things to look at and argue about, but an email being used as a Will in Oklahoma is an uphill battle. (If anyone knows any authority to the contrary – please send it to me!)
Should the Law Be Changing With Technology?
A bigger picture question beyond this specific case is should estate and probate law be changing to allow things like emails to act as Wills? What about live Zoom calls and written texts and recorded videos posted to a Facebook account? Would this make things easier and more fair? Would it invite more fraud and confusion? Would it decrease costs – or increase them in more Court battles.
I think this circumstance brings up lots of interesting questions such as these. Let me know what you think. I may try to flesh out some more of these issues in later posts – especially as the case develops.