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Electronic Wills

Monday, 4 September 2017

Old woman working on laptop computer at homeUp to 40% of adults die each year without a Will. There are various reasons for this, but one main reason is thought to be a direct result of people simply being put off by outdated laws, and the costs involved in making a will. Under these circumstances, it may appear easier for an individual to simply avoid the subject and not make a Will. Unfortunately, this means that if an individual dies without a will, the estate will be distributed under outdated Intestacy laws, under which there is no guarantee that the estate will be distributed in accordance with the deceased’s wishes .The Law Commission has branded the current system “outdated” and is currently considering proposals on how Electronic Wills could reflect the modern age in which we live.

Under present laws a Will needs to be written and signed by the testator and witnessed by two individuals. A law introduced in 1837, when there was no internet, email, nor many of the other advancements of modern technology. In the current age, these formalities may prove to be inconvenient. As The Law Commission has noted, “a person who is ill in hospital may have more immediate access to a tablet or smartphone than a pen and paper”.

In a consultation paper which was published on 13th July 2017, the Law Commission stated that “in circumstances where a will is present, there are occasions when the Testators wishes are not acted on, if formal rules are not followed”. The law Commissions proposals include providing the courts with greater flexibility where there are harmless errors in a will, when the deceased’s wishes are clear.

It is presumed that solicitors will give a positive response to these proposals. However, there are a few proposals which have raised questions surrounding the ease in creation of Electronic Wills. It is feared that they could result in fraud, dissatisfied relatives and probate becoming both contentious and expensive.

We have become accustomed to a lifestyle where we have easy access to emails, text messages, and the internet. Therefore, it seems inevitable that the legacy system must be , to fit in to the world in which we now live.

The Law commission proposed reforms in tackling our current legacy are to be welcomed. However although the current legacy system has been branded “outdated”, nonetheless, the Last Will and Testament remains one of the most important documents which any individual will ever make in their lifetime. A Will affects the lives of others and the will makers loved ones. Therefore we must also ensure that such an important document should not be drafted in the same way as for example, an insurance quote. It will still be important for anyone making a Will electronically, that they have sound legal advice and are aware of the many potential pitfalls which can occur within the legal system.

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