How Legal Technologies May Change Will Writing

There’s a common misconception that writing a will is only reserved for the affluent, but this couldn’t be further than the truth. If you think that your assets are too trivial to even worry about, it would benefit you to still draft a will. CNBC posits that even for a small checking account or an old vehicle, the people you leave behind will still have to distribute the account and change the title to the car. A will allows you to decide who gets what, who will wrap up your estate—or lack thereof— and who will look after your children (or even pets) in the event that you get hit by the proverbial bus.

 In the past, writing a will was as simple as writing your wishes on a document, enlisting two witnesses, signing it, and leaving it at home, the bank, with a solicitor or the Probate Service, pursuant to the Wills Act 1837. But as with all things, technological advancements have changed the process of will writing, much to the delight of the estate planning community.

 Technological innovations are responsible for the recent seismic shifts in the legal sector. Tech writer James Gonzales notes that technology like blockchain could disrupt the legal industry, by way of automating contracts, easier corporate filings, and accessible notarisation. In terms of will writing, estate planners can better facilitate the execution of wills if technology is integrated correctly.

 A study published in the Ohio Northern University Law Review outlines how technology can make will writing more secure and efficient. There may soon be a world where electronic wills will be the norm, or at least be a viable replacement to the traditional paper will. It could have a biometric authentication to ensure that only a single authoritative copy of the will is available, and any changes done are readily identifiable. The electronic will would also need to have a digitised signature as an additional method of authentication. 

Video wills are another possibility: what was prevalent only in television in movies before can soon be a reality if adequately implemented. In a video will, the testator can verbally dispense their wishes in great detail through a recording. However, given how easy it is to manipulate or even fabricate footage using various editing tools, this type of will may not be feasible since it can be altered to serve the purposes of someone else. 

Even electronic wills may be a reach, even though almost everything these days is carried out online. As noted in The London Gazette, electronic signatures in the context of estate planning are tricky especially in the UK, because particulars differ in Scotland, England, and Wales. In Scotland, the testator is required to sign every page of their will and must be in the physical presence of a witness. Meanwhile, in England and Wales, the signature must be witnessed by two people. Before e-wills can fully be adopted, the technology must facilitate trust and not dilute the capability of an individual to sign a will or their witnesses’ competence to attest to that. Legislators will also have to be comfortable that the testator understands the implications of signing the will in the event that they want it done electronically. 

 

As underscored by Hugh Storer in a previous post, no more than a third of Brits have a will. Couple that with the fact that unexpected deaths in Britain are on the rise, it’s all the more important to establish a will, so you can assure that all your affairs will be in order should something happen to you. Even though electronic wills aren’t reliable right now and you will have to stick with the traditional paper will, you’ll feel more at ease to have a legally-binding document that outlines your wishes.

Article written on behalf of Goodwills by;

JBiggs

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