Proposed changes to the way we make our wills could see notes and recordings on mobile phones become the wills of the future.
The Law Commission has made the suggestion in a report into the way inheritance laws can be brought in line with the digital age.
Michelle Monnes Thomas, an Associate in our Wills, Probate & Lifetime Planning Department, looks at the pros and cons:
The way that wills have been made – a written document that has to be signed and witnessed by two people – has been unchanged since 1839 so a review of the way we deal with inheritance is probably overdue!
But the Law Commission’s suggestions that notes, emails or even voicemail messages could be used in place of a formal will is one that will spark some debate in the legal field.
The Commission suggests that judges would be able to decide on a balance of probabilities whether a digital recording or note would be an accurate reflection of someone’s wishes.
It’s a law that already exists in places like Canada and South Africa and it’s a move that might encourage more people to record their wishes as it’s easier to jot down an email or record a message on your phone, even in your last hours.
But any changes or consultation will need to be carefully implemented to take into account issues such as a person’s incapacity, vulnerability or undue influence.
It strikes me that allowing digital recordings of someone’s intention as a formal will could easily lead to increased abuse of the system. Judges making a decision on a balance of probabilities could be open to opinion and this could lead to a rise in wills and intentions being disputed or a person’s wishes not being followed as intended.
One positive proposal by the Commission would be reducing the age you can make a will from 18 to 16. There are children of this age who have assets and may not want them to go to parents, particularly if they do not live with them or have other people they would wish to benefit, as would happen under current intestacy rules.
* Michelle advises on a range of private client related matters including wills, powers of attorney, trusts and estates. Michelle is also part of the Community Care Team, which advises on challenging care decisions and reviewing assessments for care and long-term care planning. She is also our Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friends Training Champion. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01902 392 484.