The Law Commission, a senior advisory body, has proposed a dramatic relaxation to the laws surrounding Wills, to bring them into line with modern life.
The current laws on the preparation of Wills date back to 1839 and, in brief, state that Wills need to be signed by the person making the Will (the Testator) in the presence of two witnesses who then also need to sign. Although this sounds simple, a huge volume of case law exists on the topic and many mistakes are made rendering wills invalid, which often are not spotted until the Testator passes away.
The Law Commission has branded these laws “unclear and “outdated”.
The Law Commission’s proposals call for notes, emails and voicemail messages to be permitted to stand as valid Wills with County and High Court Judges being allowed to use an element of discretion to determine whether such a voicemail or note constitutes a valid Will. The Law Commission is seeking to recognise our ever-increasing reliance on electronic communication and audio or audio-visual recording, at the expense of the good old fashioned pen and paper!
There are of course possible disadvantages to the proposals, for example a disappointed relative sifting through a myriad of text messages or emails in an attempt to come up with some other note prepared by the Testator which seems to contradict their last wishes in order to dispute those. In a world where cybercrime is becoming an ever-increasing issue, surely electronic communications, or Wills, would be open to manipulation or even fraud.
There is also the obvious concern that whereas recording a voicemail is inherently easier than making a formal signed Will, this could result in vulnerable people being pressured into recording something they do not necessarily want, or have given full thought to, which surely is less likely to occur when following the traditional method of setting their wishes out in writing and independent witnesses attesting to their signature.
Whilst the current law may be archaic, these drastic changes proposals will clearly need careful consideration. Watch this space!
If you would like advice on making a Will please contact us on 01323 727 321 or use the enquiry form below.
Please note, this article does not constitute legal advice.