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STEP responds to Ministry of Justice's Will Storage Reform Consultation

STEP responds to Ministry of Justice's Will Storage Reform Consultation


STEP, the professional body for inheritance advisers, addresses concerns over Ministry of Justice's proposed reform on digitising wills

Issues raised include cost clarity, safeguards against digital risks, and defining 'famous person.' STEP questions the necessity of the proposal and highlights members' worries about potential errors in the scanning process.

The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), a leading professional body for inheritance advisers, has submitted a response to the Ministry of Justice's consultation on the storage and retention of wills. The consultation suggests a reform that would allow wills dating back to 1858 to be digitised and potentially destroyed, with paper copies reserved for wills of famous individuals.

Jo Summers TEP, partner with law firm Jurit and spokesperson for STEP, voiced concerns about the lack of clarity surrounding the budget for digitisation and storage. The proposal entails significant costs, and STEP urges the Ministry of Justice to provide a detailed breakdown of expenses and demonstrate the cost-benefit analysis.

One of the primary concerns raised by STEP is related to the safeguards against potential risks associated with digital archives. The recent challenges faced by the British Library, including hacking, corruption, and theft, highlight the vulnerabilities of digital storage systems. STEP emphasises the need for a robust plan to mitigate such risks and ensure the integrity and security of digitised wills.

Furthermore, the definition of a 'famous person' poses a subjective challenge, and STEP seeks clarification on the criteria used to determine fame. With many individuals gaining posthumous fame, the lack of clear guidelines raises questions about how this aspect of the reform will be implemented and regulated.

Members of STEP have also expressed reservations about the outsourcing of the scanning process for wills. The use of scanning by HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has encountered issues, including missing pages in probate applications, leading to delays. While acknowledging the potential benefits of technological advancements, STEP remains unconvinced about the necessity of the proposed reform and its potential cost savings.

In summary, STEP's response underscores the importance of addressing budgetary concerns, enhancing safeguards against digital risks, and providing clarity on criteria for designating famous individuals. The professional body advocates for a thorough evaluation of the proposed reform to ensure it aligns with the best interests of both practitioners and the wider public.