Legal

Are Electronic Wills the future?

The Law Commission has recently sought responses as to whether a new Wills Act should permit electronic/paperless Wills. This could potentially include Wills made via Video recording.

19 Feb 2024

Team name
Emma Boys-Smith

Emma Boys Smith

The Law Commission also sought opinions on are whether Wills should continue to be revoked automatically by marriage or civil partnership, due to concerns about predatory marriages.

Professor Nicholas Hopkins, Commissioner for Property, Family and Trust Law has said:

“Our review of Wills aims to ensure that the law is modern and as straightforward as possible, protecting the most vulnerable and giving greater effect to everyone’s last wishes.

“In light of recent technological and societal developments, we are seeking views on electronic Wills and the effects of predatory marriage on Wills. We welcome a wide range of responses to our consultation paper.”

The Law Commission have raised in Consultation Paper 231, that technology is already being used in sophisticated ways to prepare hard copy Wills and the intuitive next step is to develop capacity to execute Wills electronically and make full use of electronic Wills. However, any provision for electronic Wills would need to ensure that they are as secure as paper Wills.

What are the advantages and disadvantages to electronic Wills?

Surprisingly 40% of the adult population in the United Kingdom do not have a Will. Therefore, the proposal may encourage more people to make a Will electronically since it may be feasible or convenient, quicker than the standard procedure. This may in turn minimise complexities when a person dies without leaving a Will resulting in intestacy rules becoming applicable and disputes potentially arising. Furthermore, the proposal may even relieve the Probate Registry of some backlog and provide a more efficient way of linking up and storing Wills and files.

However, there are some significant risks that will need to be considered with introducing electronic Wills. For example, the risk of fraud, hacking, undue influence, and how the Testator is assessed for mental capacity. In the case of a video Will, there may be difficulties in ensuring language is precise and risks of misinterpretation or videos becoming edited or forged. Testators who wish to rely solely on this proposal, may also refrain from seeking legal advice from a legal professional when it comes to estate planning or making a Will. Not doing so, could lead to disputes and wishes not being properly record and later administered.

The Law Commission is now considering their collected responses and it will certainly be interesting to see what the outcome is regarding this proposal.

M&P Commentary

Emma Boys-Smith, a Trainee Solicitor in our Wills and Probate team, said:

“The importance of having a properly drafted and executed Will is paramount to ensuring that your wishes are correctly recorded and, when the time comes, that your estate is administered accurately. There are of course significant benefits to using a solicitor to prepare your Will and advise on estate planning.

Please see our blog: 5 reasons you should use a solicitor’s firm to prepare your Will | Mullis and Peake (mplaw.co.uk) and contact our Wills and Probate Team who will gladly assist you with drafting or updating a Will, advising on estate planning, preparing an LPA and obtaining a grant of probate and administering an estate.”

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