Estate Lawyer: Probating an iPhone Will; Revisiting 2009; and The Bobrow 700

Posted on April 2nd, 2014 at 9:00 AM

By: Robert L. Moshman, Esq.

Is an iPhone message a valid Will? Why do the President’s budget proposals keep returning the transfer taxation to 2009 standards…but not until 2018? What prompted 700 tax lawyers to come to the aid of their colleague Alvan Bobrow? Can owners reclaim a painting that was nationalized during the Communist revolution?

These are questions with a theme of counter-intuitive logic. Spoiler alert, the answers could be: Testamentary intent, politics, a secret tax attorney vow of allegiance, and international law (or fear of Vladimir Putin). Without further adieu, here is an unusual collection of fascinating cases.

An App For What?

Our existence in this digitized era is reduced to banality what with ephemeral electronic communications and ethereal files stored in clouds. Can we also expect to shuffle off this mortal coil with a final shout-out to the Twitterverse: “Bad vibe, signing off @cruelworld #worstdayever?”  

Alas, for Karter Yu, there would be no formal estate planning, no growing old with the security of well-crafted documents, no comfort, and no time. Driven by whatever desperation, he communicated his farewells in a series of emails and text messages from his iPhone, wrote a message on the phone that he referred to as his Will, and then committed suicide.

Our old-school colleagues at the Bar embellish upon the sanctity of duly witnessed and notarized Wills and guard against tampering or forgery with raised seals, wax seals, ribbons, specialty papers, special fonts, and even rivets! Is the common law of probate prepared to acknowledge an unwitnessed iPhone document as a valid Will?

Apparently so. Mr. Yu’s case played out in Queensland, Australia, but the issue of an iPhone Will has captivated the attention of the international estate planning community. Almost everyone has phones capable of communicating testamentary intent. Mr. Yu could be you...

Read the full PDF here.

Related Attorneys: James J. Eccleston

Tags: Robert L. Moshman, Moshman, Estate Analyst

Return to Archive



Thank You from the bottom of our hearts for all you have done for us. When we realized this was a very bad investment - we did not know where to turn for help. Then we received your name. When we called you - you were so kind to us and then agreed to help us. For this we are so very grateful. The world would be a much nicer place if there were more people like the two of you in it. We will always remember all the help and kindness you have shown us. Thank you so very very much for everything.

Wayne and Judy S.


June 30, 2022
FINRA Fines United Planners Over GPB Private Placement Sales

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has fined United Planners’ Financial Services of America over negligent sales of private placements issued by GPB Capital Holdings.

June 29, 2022
J.P. Morgan Advisors Ordered To Pay Former Partner $620,000

A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitration panel has ordered a J.P. Morgan team to pay their former partner at least $620,000 over the dissolution of a partnership.

June 28, 2022
JP Morgan Manager Reveals Issues Regarding ESG Loan Pitches

The market for sustainability-linked loans is still severely prone to “greenwashing”, or investing more time and effort into marketing itself as environmentally friendly rather than actually minimizing its environmental impact, according to one of J.P. Morgan’s managers who often helps to sort through debt that is pitched to the company.