STEP responds to the Ministry of Justice consultation on the storage and retention of wills

STEP has responded to the Ministry of Justice’s consultation on the storage and retention of wills and other documents submitted in applications for probate.

This consultation proposes a reform that will allow older wills and documents, dating back to 1858, to be converted into digital form and be destroyed at a later date. If this reform goes ahead, the only wills that would be kept in paper form, will be those of famous people. Jo Summers TEP, partner with law firm Jurit and spokesperson for STEP, said:

“STEP is calling on the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) to outline its budget for the digitisation and storage of wills as the reforms put forward will incur significant costs, and the cost benefit is, as yet, unclear. Further explanation is needed on safeguards and the steps to be taken to help mitigate risks. The recent difficulties faced by the British Library show that digital archives can be hacked, corrupted or stolen.

We are also seeking clarification on what constitutes ‘a famous person’ and how this will be decided, and by whom. Fame is a subjective concept, and it is not clear what criteria will be used. There are many examples of people who only became famous years, if not decades, after their death.

Our members have also raised concerns about the outsourcing of the scanning of wills as part of the digitisation process. The current use of scanning by HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has not been without errors. Many of our members have observed probate applications where scans have contained missing pages leading to further probate delays. STEP is not against technological change, but we are not convinced this proposal is needed, nor that it will save money.”

STEP’s full response: The Ministry of Justice’s Proposed Reform on the Permanent Storage and Retention of Original Will Documents

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