Voicemail and texts - Radical overhaul of inheritance laws
Posted on 17th July 2017 at 06:51
This week has seen the announcement that people will be able to use voicemail and texts to make their Wills under a radical overhaul of inheritance laws proposed by the Government’s legal advisers.
The Law Commission has described the current legacy system as out of date and said that it must keep up with the digital age.
Under laws which date back to the Wills Act of 1837, Wills need to be written and signed by the testator (the person whose will it is) as well as two witnesses in order to be valid. The Commission is suggesting that those rules are unclear.
It has therefore called for the law to be relaxed to allow notes, emails and voicemail messages to be used in place of a written Will. For example, deathbed changes of heart could be recorded and used to override an existing valid Will.
The Law Commission has admitted that its proposals could add to family arguments and be fraught.
It admits that a person who, for example, is seriously ill in hospital may have easier access to a tablet or smartphone than to a pen and paper and may be more able to speak than to write. Conversely, the proposed recognition of electronically produce documents could provide a ‘treasure trove’ for dissatisfied relatives.
It appears that similar powers already exist in Australia, Canada, South Africa and several states in The US.
However, experts urge caution amid concerns that older people, in particular, could be pressured into last minute changes to their wishes. Age UK has said that ‘whilst we welcome this public consultation, any proposed changes must not create further barriers for people who wish to plan ahead and ensure that older people are able to make their own decisions wherever possible, free from pressure and coercion’.
The proposals also suggest changing the law about mental capacity to make it easier to assess whether someone with dementia is able to make a Will and lowering the age someone can make a Will from 18 to 16.
The consultation will run until November 10th.
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