Wills In The Digital Age

When you make your will there are a number of formal requirements that must be complied with to ensure its validity. A will must be in writing, signed by the testator and witnessed by two independent individuals. It may surprise people to learn that these rules are set out in a statute passed 180 years ago, the Wills Act 1837.

Recently there have been calls to modernise the existing system to reflect the fact that our society has changed. We now live in a digital age where family structures are less rigid and advances in medicine mean that people live longer and there is a greater understanding of conditions such as dementia.

In response to this ongoing discussion the Law Commission have opened a public consultation which is due to close on 10 November 2017. The consultation contains a number of proposals including:

  • new rules protecting those making a will from being unduly influenced by another person
  • changing the test for capacity to make a will to take into account the modern understanding of conditions like dementia
  • provide statutory guidance for doctors and other professionals conducting an assessment of whether a person has the required mental capacity to make a will
  • lowering the age for that a will can be made from 18 to 16

Recent reports in the media claim that people will soon be able to make their wills by text message or voicemail. It remains to be seen whether this will become a reality, but one of the Law Commission’s stated aims is to pave the way for the introduction of electronic wills.

Current statistics suggest that around 40% of the adult population do not have a valid will. Hopefully the introduction of a more modern system will enable or encourage more people to make a will. It will also be important to ensure that relevant safeguards are in place so that the vulnerable are protected and issues such as cyber security are addressed.

If you are interested in finding out more about the consultation then visit the Law Commission’s consultation page: http://www.lawcom.gov.uk/project/wills/.

If you do not have a will or wish to discuss your current will then please contact a member of our Private Client team or view our Making a Will page..