Proposals for reforming wills miss the chance to urgently address the impact technology is already having, an influential body has said.
In a consultation response, the Institute of Legacy Management said the Law Commission ‘seems to defer’ all conversation on technology and that the issue needs consideration as the 'growing trend’ towards writing wills through technology is already affecting the probate process.
The commission’s consultation, which proposes reform in several areas of the process, says room should be made for electronic wills ‘once technical obstacles are overcome’.
The consultation added that the lord chancellor should be given the power to introduce fully electronic wills by statutory instrument, but the ILM warned that it does not ’specify a timeline or the level of public consultation this would involve’. It said this may require a whole other consultation.
ILM chief executive Chris Millward said: ‘The consultation seems to defer all conversation on technology in the will process, suggesting it’s a future problem. But we know that people writing wills online is having an impact now and requires considerable consideration, fast.’
‘Our members are already seeing the consequences of wills made online, and as we become more reliant on technology, this is likely to increase. There is a risk of badly drawn up wills resulting in donors’ final wishes being frustrated, and failing, meaning charities and their beneficiaries miss out on vital support. The introduction of fully electronic wills would complicate the process further.’
The ILM’s response notes that more charities are now offering online will-writing facilities.
‘We can embrace technology while retaining essential safeguards and standards to make sure such wills are legally robust and vulnerable people are protected,’ he added.
Millward said tighter regulation and standardisation of online will-writing platforms would help achieve this, an idea solicitors have also backed.
However, the commission said in its consultation document that the Legal Services Board recommended regulation of will writers in 2013, which the government subsequently rejected and that it understood the government’s position had not changed.
The consultation closed last week and the Gazette revealed more than 80 responses had been received. It is thought to be one of the commission’s most engaging consultations.