Following from the latest news regarding Probates going online – should the formation of Will’s now be digital as well, as part of the ongoing digitalisation of the legal sector?
It may be ironic to suggest that Will’s should be digital, given that the majority of people in elderly age who are the most likely to consider Will writing still do not know how to use a computer efficiently enough, let alone format a will single handedly.
However, can the same be said for the next foreseeable fifty years or so, when the youth of today, having grown up within the digital world since birth, shall be more compelled to use the computer to write Will’s upon, rather than to seek help from a solicitor in person? Being so, is digital Will writing a foreseeable act of the legal sector in times to come, leading to the field of Will’s and Probates to become entirely replaced by technology?
What is a Will and how can it be digital?
A Will is a legal document that provides the instructions of an individual as to what should be done with their possessions and estate after death, in which is usually distributed to their spouse and nearest family members unless instructed otherwise.
Already included within the Will writing Is what is known as a ‘Digital Will’ per se, in that an individual’s ‘digital presence’ such as their social media accounts, is also decided upon death. Many online website’s already have procedures regarding the rules surrounding ‘Digital Will’s’, in which most likely a deceased person is removed from a server automatically following from their death, as a way of eliminating their virtual presence after the physical one has died.
However, will the process of a ‘Digital Will’ be implemented with further ease if the writing of a Will itself was strictly digitalised, without the necessity of people visiting a solicitor in person? If this were the case, then the procedure for Will writing could be automated by technology to the extent that all terms and conditions that the individual ever consented to during their ‘virtual’ online presence on the internet was then put forth, in which the individual will thus obtain greater control over how they wish their digital presence to be handled post-death, including sensitive information such as passwords and encrypted data.
What are the likely problems of Digital Will Writing?
A notable problem with writing and declaring last Will’s and testaments digitally is that there shall not necessarily be any physical witnesses at hand to validate the Will. Therefore although the Will may be written digitally, a physical presence will still be required by law. Thus, would a digital Will writing service really improve the legal sector? Or will it slow it down with a back and forth between digital and physical?
However, if digital Will writing is still be viewed in the perception of the future, then our understanding of what being a witness entails could be altered altogether. For instance, with the rise of technological development, such as Near-Field Communication upon mobile phones that can scan data from any document, could an individual also act as a witness virtually, so long as it is documented digitally? For instance, a camera operated system could scan a witnesses’ face which will log their data into the Will writing system, as confirmation that the will is valid. Being so, the Will writing procedure may be a quicker process overall, as well as providing a more substantial Will due to the data being kept digitally instead of on paper, which is prone to destruction, alteration or fraud (such as fake deaths!)
Therefore, the act of writing last Will’s and testaments online may be an act of the future, as all data becomes completely digitalised over time. Furthermore, the Will of the deceased person will have more substance by providing further clarity as to exactly how and where all their assets are sourced from and where exactly they should be delegated to, thanks to the developing world of automation which is likely to take over the legal sector in times to come.