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Online Wills- Could this be the future?

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In this modern age the process of signing, witnessing and dating a hard copy Will can seem outdated. A Will is a written document that has been signed by the testator and witnessed by two people over the age of 18, who do not benefit from the Will. The rules relating to the creation of Wills date back to 1837. Some people may question why a piece of law older than everyone alive in the present day, is still appropriate to govern us.

There have been press reports recently suggesting that the process of creating a Will should be modernised for example, should it be possible to create a Will online? Although there are resources available online, ultimately a hard copy document still needs to be created, signed and witnessed correctly. In the future could we just save our wishes on a computer somewhere or even include them in a text message?

The problem with both these suggestions is that these methods will make it very difficult, if not impossible, to establish the true intentions of the Testator (the person making the Will). Although the ease of these methods can seem appealing, there is no substitute for speaking to an expert about your situation to make sure your intentions upon your death are achievable and recorded correctly. Fraud is obviously an issue and technology would also need to be at such a level as to ensure that no-one else could create intentions on the Testators behalf.  

Whether you realise it or not, when meeting with professional to create a Will, they will also be assessing your mental capacity to ascertain whether you understand the significance of what you intend to give away and to whom. If a professional advisor considers you to have the requisite mental capacity to make a Will this will carry weight if ever challenged in the future. Without this interaction with a professional there will be nothing to determine whether you fully understood what you were doing. At Chattertons, we also ensure that the issue of inheritance tax is discussed with you as part of the process of preparing a Will. This is not only to ensure that you are aware of your current inheritance tax liability but also to explore the possibility of mitigating any such liability, if at all possible. A professional should also discuss issues such as foreign assets and assets that may fall outside of the remits of your Will. Ultimately, if such important things are over looked, family members are more likely to have a stressful experience throughout the person’s probate process and may have significant grounds to challenge the validity of the Will.

If online Wills continue to grow in popularity, we may begin to experience a new generation where Wills are no longer appropriately or adequately created. The continuing question is, are the developments of online Wills an advance of the 21st century and an important technological development, or, should Will making not be so easily accessible as the internet cannot be controlled? Although the Will Act has served us well for the past 180 years, in today’s ever developing world, is any type of legislation really going to be able to govern the complexities of modern technology? Perhaps there are still some things, such a making a Will that we should continue to do the old fashioned way.

If you require any further advice on this, please contact the Chattertons Wills, Trusts and Probate team.