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Electronic Wills: Will they become a Reality?

Electronic Wills: Will they become a Reality?


The Law Commission is revisiting the topic of electronic wills due to the growing use of digital documents and signatures in various contexts, alongside technological advancements

The Law Society of England and Wales has acknowledged the potential for electronic wills to become a reality but has raised concerns about the associated risk of increased fraud. This discussion emerges as a response to the Law Commission's consultation on wills reform.

The Law Society formed its response after surveying 895 solicitors specializing in wills and probate. Among the respondents, approximately half showed a likelihood of supporting the integration of technology in the will-writing process. However, these solicitors also expressed apprehension about electronic wills potentially heightening the risk of fraud and undue influence.

Nick Emmerson, President of the Law Society, emphasized the organization's support for enabling electronic wills to be legally valid. However, he underscored the need for stringent requirements to safeguard against fraud and undue influence. He also highlighted the importance of maintaining a traditional paper process for will-making, ensuring accessibility for those who may face challenges with electronic methods.

The Law Society aims for electronic wills to potentially encourage more individuals to create wills but emphasizes the necessity for a thorough examination of the proposed changes.

Additionally, the Commission is contemplating whether the law should be amended to prevent marriage from automatically revoking a will. The Law Society's survey revealed that a considerable number of solicitors reported suspicions about clients being in predatory marriages, a form of financial abuse. While a notable proportion of respondents agreed that the law should prevent marriage from automatically revoking a will, an equal percentage disagreed, signaling the need for deeper consideration.

Emmerson highlighted the concerning prevalence of predatory marriages and stressed the urgency for actions to prevent financial exploitation through marriage and wills. Given the lack of consensus among solicitors regarding changing the law, further deliberation on the advantages and disadvantages is deemed necessary. The protection of vulnerable individuals susceptible to predatory marriage and financial abuse remains a priority, with the Law Society recommending additional training for registrars to identify signs of insufficient mental capacity in marriages.