Digital signature software boss calls for reforms to law on signing of wills

The CEO of a pioneering digital signature software company has called for modernisation of the law to allow wills to be signed online, as a consultation on the future of he process gets under way.

The Law Commission is gathering feedback on a number of aspects of the will-making process, including the potential introduction of electronic wills.

Steven Tallant, Chief Executive of Liverpool-based Videosign, has welcomed the consultation and says outdated regulations around signing and witnessing of wills have failed to keep up with technological developments.

Current law requires wills to be signed with pen and ink and witnessed in person. A temporary amendment allowing wet signatures to be witnessed online was introduced in England and Wales during the Covid pandemic, but is due to expire at the end of January 2024.

Steven said:

“It’s legal to sign most contracts and documents online these days, but wills remain one of the few areas where a pen-and-ink signature is required.

There are very good reasons why the security and probity of wills is taken seriously. But there are equally valid reasons to improve processes in the UK to take advantage of the benefits technology has to offer.

Other countries are now ahead of the UK in terms of modernising this area of law. For example, many US states are introducing laws allowing wills to be both witnessed and signed digitally.”

The Videosign CEO said a recent personal experience had given him additional insight into the shortcomings of relying on paper wills.

Steven added:

“The flaws in the current system were brought into focus for me recently after my aunt died suddenly in December of last year, and I was named as executor of her will.

The process took months to complete, largely due to queries that were raised over the authenticity of the will – which was legally required to be written on paper and signed in ink.

Statements from witnesses had to be sent in the post, documents went missing, and the whole process dragged on for longer than it needed to.

All of the issues could have been resolved in minutes by referring to the video evidence and digital documents if technology like Videosign had been used to sign the will in the first place, rather than depending on physical paperwork that can be easily damaged or lost.

I’m sure many people will have much more difficult experiences than mine while dealing with probate, and I would love to see the UK legislate to bring wills into the digital age at last.”

Headquartered in Liverpool and with a development hub in Glasgow, Videosign launched in 2019 aiming to develop a solution more secure, efficient and convenient than the traditional pen-and-ink signature.

The software uses AI-driven facial recognition to identify signatories and records video evidence of documents being signed.

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