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Caution urged over ‘make a Will by text message’ proposal

A proposal that could see emails, text messages and voicemails used to make legally binding Wills could be ‘fraught with pitfalls’ according to an expert.

The Law Commission recently launched a consultation into whether modern communication methods could be recognised by courts in a bid to relax rules which are many years old and encourage more people to make a Will.

It is part of a wider examination of the current legal system for making Wills, which is also looking at ways to better protect vulnerable people such as those with dementia.

Now Kathryn Harwood, head of the Wills & Estate Planning team at Napthens solicitors, has warned that the proposals would mean an overhaul of the way Wills are put together.

She explained: “At the moment, Wills have to be executed in accordance with the procedure laid out in the Wills Act 1837, which means a Will must be made in writing and signed by the person making it, in the presence of two independent persons who must sign as witnesses

“So often we have the situation where people expect a hastily written letter to be a valid Will, but if it isn’t executed in accordance with the Act it simply doesn’t count.

“To go from that to emails or texts being a valid way of producing a Will is a monumental change. I can appreciate that when we’re working to a law that is nearly 200 years old, there needs to be change to reflect modern lifestyle changes, but on the upside the current system does give certainty and reduced the risk of contested Wills.

“These days contested Wills are on the increase, and these plans may not help this situation. However, being talked about doesn’t mean changes will actually happen, but I do think we may well see some relaxation of the rules and, hopefully, added protection for more vulnerable people, and this is to be welcomed.”

If you require any further information on the above, please get in touch with the Wills & Estate Planning team.

Preston estate planning lawyer Kathryn Harwood