Government dismisses possibility of wills sent by ‘informal routes’

The suggestion that a proposed change in the law around wills could lead to people sending the documents by text has been dismissed by the government.

Whilst it was acknowledged that Law Society had permitted electronic wills to be valid in law, junior justice minister Philip Lee stressed that this would not mean that a text message could constitute a will.

This formed part of Lee’s response to a question in Parliament where he had been asked about the Law Commission’s proposals, and the governmental assessments put in place to make sure that consumers were safeguarded against fraud.

Elaborating on the extent of the proposals, he stated: ‘The Law Commission has not made proposals to allow wills and other testamentary dispositions to be created by text message or similar informal routes. The Law Commission is, however, currently considering the law of wills, including how the law can provide for the making of electronic wills, whilst ensuring testators are protected against risks of fraud and exploitation.’

In regard to governmental assessments, he stated that whilst recommendations would be considered, there were currently no plans set out to amend the legal requirements for making a will. As a result, an assessment of the risk for increased fraud and litigation had not been made.  

The consultation paper calling for views on the law surrounding wills was published by the Law Commission in July.

One of the main elements of the paper to receive criticism was that which mentioned ‘a dispensing power’. Enabling the court to recognise a will to be valid, even where formalities have not been complied with, this power is already available in a number of other jurisdictions including Australia and New Zealand.

It’s been suggested that the power would predominantly benefit those who are able to speak rather than write, or if seriously ill are limited in how they can communicate. The Commission added that even in these circumstances, an assessment of the facts would still be undertaken.

The consultation on the proposals can be accessed here. Responses will be accepted until the 10 November.

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