#TheDigitalAge

Posted by Emma Agamian

Brabners

Thu 27th, Jul

Everyone knows there are certain archaic formalities to be complied with in order to execute a valid Will (although not everyone knows exactly what they are), but all that could soon be changed under radical changes to the law currently being proposed by the Law Commission. The consultation will run until November 2017 and will cover matters such as lowering the age at which a person can make a Will from 18 to 16, introducing a new mental capacity test to take account of improved understanding of conditions like dementia and suggesting that people will be able to use voicemail and text messages to make their Wills.

Under the proposals, the law would be relaxed to allow electronic communications to be recognised as a valid Will where the person’s intentions regarding the distribution of his/her estate were clear.  The Courts would have the power to rule on whether the person’s wishes were accurately recorded, without needing to consider whether the strict rules of Will making had been adhered to.

With online systems for creating Lasting Powers of Attorney and the Probate Service also introducing a new online application process, it is tempting to panic about shortly being replaced by a robot.  However, there will clearly always be a need for careful planning both for tax mitigation and for asset protection over the longer term.

Although an overhaul of what can be considered to be an “outdated” system may be welcome, care will need to be taken to avoid people putting in place valid Wills without appreciating the implications.  There is an instinctive concern that this may open the door to coercion of vulnerable people and claims from dissatisfied beneficiaries who produce passing comments recorded in messages as evidence of intention, but the proposals will cover various technical issues and hope to address these concerns.

It will be interesting to see the responses to the consultation but, without adequate safeguarding, the result of such radical changes may be simply much more litigation after the event….

To find out more on the subject please contact Emma Agamian or a member of our Private Client Department.

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