• April 23, 2024
 Times up on the remote execution of wills – but for how long?

Times up on the remote execution of wills – but for how long?

We wrote in August 2020 that the Government announced that legislation would be introduced to allow remote electronic witnessing of wills but this was only to be temporary (blog link here).

Time is now up and remote execution of wills is no longer permitted in England and Wales from 31 January 2024 onwards. This does not invalidate wills witnessed in this manner while the Order was in force.

In order for Wills to be valid, they need to abide by the traditional formalities set out in the Wills Act 1837:

  1. It must be in writing;
  2. It must be signed by the person making it in the presence of two independent witnesses; and
  3. The witnesses must each sign it in the presence of the person making it.

However, the law may change in the future. The reform of the laws relating to wills has been on the UK Government’s agenda for a number of years. This is not surprising considering the law we follow in the Wills Act was set out 187 year ago

The Law Commission of England and Wales is currently developing proposals for a permanent change to the law. In 2017, the Law Commission published a consultation paper which recommended modernising the laws “to take account of the changes in society, technology and medical understanding that have taken place since the Victorian era.”

The 2023 consultation noted that there may be the possibility to consider the provision of electronic wills in a new Wills Act. There are a number of important issues which need to be considered, including, for example, storage and concerns that those who are vulnerable or lack capacity may be taken advantage through the use of electronic Wills and there could be an increase in undue influence or fraud.

Under current rules, a will is automatically revoked on marriage/entering into to a civil partnership. This is also being considered. The Law Commission has expressed concerns that these rules reflect outdated societal norms and could result in inappropriate outcomes. They also highlighted the increase in predatory marriages, where individuals seek to take advantage of the revocation rules as a form of financial abuse. A change to these rules may however leave genuine spouses or civil partners in an undesirable position.

It is clear that the Wills legislation is in need of modernisation but this needs to be balanced to take into account the various issues. It is unlikely any major reform will be passed in the immediate future. Therefore, for now, all Wills need to follow the traditional formalities in the 1837 Wills Act.

Diva Shah, Kingsley Napley