Writing your Will by text? That could happen

Some of the government’s legal advisers are suggesting changes to legislation that would allow anyone to use text messages, or even voicemail, to make or amend their Wills. As the law stands, Wills need to be written and signed by the “testator” as well as two witnesses, neither of whom can be a beneficiary under the Will. The Law Commission has said that the current system of writing Wills, which dates back to 1830, needs to be updated.

The consultation document says that “there are strong arguments that it should apply not only to traditional written documents, but also where testators express their testamentary intentions in an electronic format, as well as in an audio or audio-visual recording.”

Another proposal is that since 16-year-olds may marry, join the army, leave school, consent to sexual activity, live alone and make their own medical decisions, they ought to be allowed to decide to whom they leave their possessions. At present the “testamentary age”, is 18 in England and Wales.

The Commission admits that the changes could add to family arguments as possible beneficiaries scour their relative’s communications for evidence that they had changed their mind. “A person who is seriously ill in hospital may have more immediate access to a tablet or smartphone than to a pen and paper, and may be more able to speak than to write.

“On the other hand, the potential recognition of electronic documents could provide a treasure trove for dissatisfied relatives. They may be tempted to sift through a huge number of texts, emails and other records in order to find one that could be put forward as a Will on the basis of a dispensing power.”

Wills and Trusts Barrister - myBarrister