Could a text become your Will?
Partner and Head of Wills & Estates team Lisa-Jane Howes, warns people to err on the side of caution when considering modern ways to write their Will.
There are moves afoot in our country to update the way a person can write a Will that is then recognised as a legally binding document.
While the legal profession is not against change, far from it, there are those within it who will be sounding words of caution during a current consultation.
Running until November the consultation into our inheritance laws follows calls to update what some believe is an ‘outdated’ system. And with the present laws surrounding wills dating back to 1839, there is certainly some merit in what the modernisers are calling for. Those of you who have made a Will, and everyone is advised to do so, will know that the current process involves the writing of a document, which is signed by the ‘testator’ as well as two witnesses.
Any change to the above structure must be approached with care, along with an understanding of the consequences of allowing, for example, a person to change or make a ‘binding Will’ using notes, emails and even voicemail or text messages.
The proposals make it clear that any new laws would grant judges powers to decide on whether a recording or note is an accurate summary of a person’s wishes, based on the balance of probabilities.
But, even with such safeguards, will there ever be enough evidence to suggest that a person has not changed their mind in the heat of the moment, or faced unnecessary pressure to do so.
The Law Commission, which is an advocate for such change, has already admitted that any modernisation could add to family arguments, with members scouring the late relative’s communications for evidence of a change of mind. Words of caution have also been sounded by some respected UK charities.
Change should never be ignored, but there are signals here that altering the way a person plans out their inheritance could create unnecessary complications.
It is therefore essential you speak to a qualified solicitor who will carefully draft your Will to ensure that your wishes are carried out and that correct provisions have been made so your family receive the inheritance you wish them to.