Posted on 20.7.17 by Michael Smoult
The Law commission for England and Wales has called for the law surrounding wills to be updated to be more suitable for todays’ ‘modern world’.
One of the main ideas being suggested by the commission is to ‘change the existing formality rules where the will-maker has made clear their intentions in another form’ such texts, emails and other forms of electronic communications. The family of the deceased would then be able to apply to the courts to have these wishes recognised as a formal will.
Whilst this may sound reasonable in theory, it’s difficult to see how these forms of communication could be deemed binding enough to influence the division of an individual’s assets upon death.
When drafting a will through a solicitor, there is a consultation, impartial advice, time for reflection – all of which contribute towards making sure all decisions made have been carefully considered. In contrast with an electronic communication (email, text etc…) there are endless ways in which any instructions could be influenced.
To make a will that is legally binding, the person needs to be of sound mind. Which begs the question, how would a court be able to establish what state of mind the deceased was in when they sent a particular message? Were they inebriated? Tired? Stressed? Perhaps they recently had a row with/faced intimidation or influence from a spouse or relative causing them to send messages which they may later regret? Are there previous messages sent at an earlier date which could alter the context of what was said?
We’ve all seen numerous stories of electronic communications being compromised, from celebrities having their personal accounts hacked to emails being leaked, so with this being said, how would one be able to reliably determine the message was actually sent by that person? When large estates are at stake, it would be irresponsible to rule out the possibility of hacking, especially if somebody close to the deceased had knowledge of their passwords.
Whilst we are yet to see how these proposed changes could be enforced, I believe there will always need to be some degree of formality to making a will, not only to give family members reassurance, but to minimise the myriad of arguments that could stem from such casual forms of communication having real influence over matters with potentially high financial and/or sentimental implications.
If you work through the process with an experienced, qualified solicitor, the process of making a will can be relatively quick and simple. If you are looking to make a Will, or have queries regarding the validity of your will, please get in touch.
At Gorvins we have a highly experienced team of experts in all Wills Trusts and Probate Matters. Call our team today on 0161 930 5151 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org