Are Electronic Wills Coming To The UK?
Posted Dec 05, 2019.
As with many business and cultural ideas and developments, electronic wills – or E-Wills for short – may soon be appearing in the UK following recent legislative changes across the pond in the USA. In July this year the US passed the Uniform Electronic Wills Act, which for the first time means that in certain States, a will can be made, signed, witnessed and executed without needing to be in the actual presence of a physical person.
In the UK, the legal profession has been bound by the 1837 Wills Act which is firmly based on hard copy, paper documents, face to face meetings and physical, ‘ink on paper’ signatures. Of course, this legislation does not take into account modern methods of communication, agreement and secure data storage, so will UK law makers permit E-Wills anytime soon?
It seems that wills and probate experts have mixed feelings about E-Wills, with one of the main concerns centred around the essential requirement for a will to be executed properly and in line with the deceased’s wishes. There are also concerns that removing the need to have a physical, witnessed signatures on a will may unintentionally open up a legal can or worms should the will be contested. At present, testators and beneficiaries are protected by over 200 years of well-established case law that may well prove irrelevant if an E-Will is challenged.
The Legal Professions View
In commenting on the subject of E-Wills in the UK, a spokesperson for Stevensons Solicitors Wills and Probate department said:
“I do think the UK will eventually follow suit, though not in the near future. I suspect that the Law Commission’s concerns boil down to such a system being largely untested and I believe they will have a close eye on how the system works in the US. I am confident that the technology that could be implemented will be more secure than hand-written Wills. I think we could also see a move towards a witness or witnesses playing a role similar to that of a certificate provider in a Lasting Power of Attorney and that the witness will have to certify certain statements about the testator before they sign… I think we will likely find that compulsory Will registration will be introduced first, similar to the French FCDDV or Spanish Registro de Actos de Última Voluntad. I believe such a system, whether the Wills are in paper or electronic format, could require individuals to sufficiently prove their identity and could require a suitably qualified professional to prepare the same. This would remove a lot of the issues with home-made Wills and uncertainty in probate cases and ought to ease the burden on HMCTS created by disputes surrounding home-made Wills. Savings made in this regard could be passed onto executors making probate applications and a reduced fee offered compared to the fee for letters of administration application, thus incentivising more adults to make a Will.”
Estate Planning and Will Writing Advice
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We then draft your Will, always making sure that it is accurate and appropriate for your needs and wishes. We ensure that your Will is correctly signed and witnessed, and can offer a safe and secure Will storage facility too.
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