Could electronic and video wills be the future?

Rebecca Parr

Since the 1837 Wills Act, it has been a requirement in order to be a valid, a will has to be in writing and signed by two witnesses present at the same time. Failure to meet these strict requirements could mean a will is rejected, even when the true wishes of the testator (the person making the will) are clear.

The Law Commission's view is that a judge should be able to suspend these strict rules, if the interests of justice would be better served, and have commenced a consultation to review the issues. The Commission will look into whether email communications or a video recording could be used as evidence of the testator’s intentions..

The consultation comes on the back of a 2015 survey by the Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists, which found that one of the main reasons for disputes about wills to arise, was when the strict formalities laid down in the 1837 Act were not followed, often inadvertently.

There could well be benefits to allowing electronic wills to stand, in some circumstances. For exmaple, it might be easier for someone who is critically ill in hospital to speak into a smartphone than to write down their wishes. Video recordings (in front of witnesses) could also deal with concerns about the identity of the person making the will, which is another common cause of disputes.

However these possible electronic methods of recording last wishes could lead to problems. Dissatisfied relatives might review the deceased's texts and emails, to try to find evidence of alternative wishes. Digital signatures on wills could be open to challenge, and the age old issues of undue influence and coercion upon the person making the will would not necessarily go away.

The Commission's consultation runs until 10 November 2017 and the current plan for the new Wills Act is that electronic and video recordings could be used in suitable circumstances.

If you have a dispute about a will, you will need to act quickly. At Samuels Solicitors, based in Devon, we have been assisting clients resolve disputes about wills for several decades. We understand that if you are waiting for your inheritance, you may not be able to pay legal fees up front, and so we have a range of flexible funding options to assist you. In some cases, this can include conditional (no win no fee) agreements.

If you have a problem with your inheritance, or a will dispute, contact us today for a free discussion about how we can help.