Should digital technology be used to make a Will in the future? The Law Commission has launched a public consultation to look at reforming the ways in which Wills are made. Nick Latimir of Coodes Solicitors’ Wills, Probate and Trusts team, gives his verdict.
The Law Commission consultation is wide-ranging and looks at a number of issues in relation to modernising Wills. The law that governs Wills in England and Wales is mainly derived from the Wills Act 1837. Clearly the world has changed a lot since then. The consultation paper is a response to our changing habits and new technology and one of the main issues it raises is introducing online or electronic Will writing in the future.
According to the latest figures, fewer than half of people in the UK have a Will. This is a worrying statistic so I welcome any efforts to make it more accessible for people to make a Will. This may well include looking at how digital technology could be used to make it easier and less daunting for people to make a Will.
I hope, however, the Law Commission will consider the many potential problems that could arise from allowing Wills to be made remotely, using digital technology. Cybercrime is on the increase, and we know there is potential for fraud when sensitive information is communicated and stored digitally.
There is also, I think the risk of undue influence and of misunderstandings arising when communication happens remotely. Having spent many years helping people from all kinds of backgrounds make their Wills, I know that there is no substitute for getting the back story. It is often an off the cuff comment – a detail that the client does not think is important – that an experienced lawyer will spot. These apparently small details can often determines how a Will needs to be drafted. Those nuggets of information only really come out when a proper conversation takes place. So, while at Coodes we place a lot of value on having a face to face conversation – though that sometimes means using Skype and video conferencing to talk to a client. I can’t help but think that if all the communication between a client and solicitor was by email or text, important details could be missed and misunderstandings could arise.
Digital technology can help us to communicate more quickly and it may be that we can make better use of online communication to put together Wills. However much the world moves on, though, I don’t think there will ever be a substitute for sitting down and having a proper conversation.
For advice on these issues or any aspect of estate planning or making a Will, please contact Nick Latimir in the Wills, Probate and Trusts team at Coodes Solicitors on 01872 246200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.