It has been announced that the Law Commission have proposed to introduce electronic wills, in a bit to modernise the industry. They labelled the current laws as being old-fashioned and out-dated and therefore not keeping up with today’s modern world.
The proposed changes mean that intentions recorded by text message, email or voicemail could be recognised as a will, if approved by a judge. This could mean that family members would be able to bring a claim to the estate should the deceased have ever expressed wishes to them via any of these methods.
This modernisation would allow people who are in hospital to make changes to their will, without the need to see a professional, as it could simply be recorded at their bedside. It could also mean people are more likely to write a will, if they can easily express their wishes via a simple text or voice recorder.
What could this mean?
There are many pitfalls to this type of modernisation, with the consequences differing in severity. Here are just a few examples of what could go wrong:
- a simple joke text could be taken seriously – such as leaving everything to the dog
- the text or email could be written by someone other than the person who owns the device
- phones/emails can be hacked – as we have seen many examples of in recent times
- what was written/said could be misinterpreted
- wishes could be made in the heat of the moment – and then forgotten to be updated. E.g. after arguing with a loved one, during times of crisis or ill health etc.
- people could be pressured into writing something down
Causes for concern
One of the biggest causes for concern is the risk of this causing friction and feuds between surviving family members. It is already becoming more common for unhappy loved ones to file claims against an estate when they have been left out of a will. This could increase considerably, particularly in cases where deathbed changes have been made.
The inclusion of these electronic methods could also find loved ones and relatives sifting through old texts, emails and other records to find something that could be put forward in order to claim on the estate.
There are also other things to consider, such as the lack of advice given by a professional.
The introduction of these electronic wills might encourage more people to make them, particularly the younger generation. But what is missing is the professional advice given on how to ensure their wishes are carried out effectively. A basic will or instruction may not offer the level of protection that is actually required. This could have disastrous consequences for those left behind.
What you can do…
Only time will tell if these plans come into fruition and electronic wills are introduced. Until then, it is important to make sure your wishes are documented legally. Without a will, your estate will be distributed according to the rules of intestacy, which might not be what you actually want to happen.
Contact us today, to protect your loved ones and get professional advice that is tailored to your requirements.