Helen Tudor-Fisk and her signature brown suit returned to our screens last night to address a rather unusual “legal” problem – text messages from the dead.
In the episode, Helen’s client Carol reported she was receiving text messages from her husband Leonard, who had died six months earlier.
Among these messages purportedly from Leonard was a reminder to not forget the milk while she was shopping at the supermarket.
When Carol replied to the text message, she received a response that her message could not be delivered as heaven is outside the NBN network.
Carol, who tells Helen she has moved on with life and has a new lover, is both disturbed and inconvenienced by the text messages.
To assist Carol, Helen reviews Leonard’s Will and establishes there has been a trust account set up to make payments to a BTG Holdings.
Her investigations reveal a service company is being paid to send Carol text messages on behalf of Leonard from the grave.
Helen learns that while alive Leonard had signed up for the gold standard service provided by the Beyond The Grave Messaging company.
This service included geo tracking or the trigger of text messages being sent when Carol attended certain locations, which explained the message about the milk at the supermarket.
Many people will remember the tearjerker movie P.S I Love You where a young widow receives ten messages from her late husband which are intended to help her in moving on with her life.
But does this happen in real life?
Dead people do sometimes leave a gift in their Will with specific instructions. For example, in the UK, a man who died in 2013 left 3500 pounds to seven of his closest friends with the proviso that they use it for a boozy weekend away to a European city.
In my research, I also discovered that in 1974 US comedian Jack Benny left a provision in his Will for his widow to be sent a stemmed red rose every day for the rest of her life.
Back to the Fisk episode, Helen asks Beyond the Grave Messaging to immediately shut the messages down, but the operator refuses to do so without permission from the account holder, who is none other than dear dead Leonard.
It’s at this point I wonder why Helen does not simply arrange for the executor of Leonard’s Will to authorise the closing of the account and provide Beyond the Grave with a certified copy of Leonard’s death certificate.
This is common practice in Australia for closing service accounts in the name of a deceased, including a mobile phone account.
However, in true Fisk style, Helen comes up with a brilliant, unnecessary and complex solution: to serve Beyond the Grave with a notice of intention to apply for a personal safety intervention order to protect her client, which like an intervention order, would prevent dead Leonard from continuing to message Carol.
Faced with this threat and Helen’s pile of documents to support her client’s claim, the operator at Beyond the Grave agrees to shut down dead Leonard’s account, but not before querying why Carol didn’t just block the number.
If you are having trouble administering an estate including dealing with the deceased accounts and the like, you should speak to our Wills team – we can guide and manage the process for you.
Our experienced wills and estates lawyers are here to help - everything from getting your own affairs in order, to administering a Will when you're an executor, to challenging a Will.
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We have lawyers who specialise in a range of legal claims who travel to Tasmania. If you need a lawyer in Hobart, Launceston or elsewhere in Tasmania, please call us on 1800 675 346.