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Impact of technology on wills needs "considerable consideration"

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Senior figures at the Institute of Legacy Management (ILM) fear that a discussion about the possibility of overhauling the legislation relating to wills is failing to take technological advances fully into consideration.

The proposals, which were drawn up by the Law Commission and recently put out to consultation, had caused a degree of nervousness within the legal profession – with some worried about the debate over whether digital communications should be considered valid wills.

The ILM’s criticism is that it doesn’t believe that the reforms which have been outlined actually do enough to acknowledge the impact that various innovations are already having.

In its response to the consultation exercise, the organisation expresses concern that while electronic wills are mentioned in the document, no timetable is given for when they might be implemented and argues there is a very real danger in ignoring the issue.

Chris Millward, the ILM’s chief executive, said: “The consultation seems to defer all conversation on technology in the will process, suggesting it’s a future problem. But we know that people writing wills online is having an impact now and requires considerable consideration, fast.’

“Our members are already seeing the consequences of wills made online, and as we become more reliant on technology, this is likely to increase.

“There is a risk of badly drawn up wills resulting in donors’ final wishes being frustrated, and failing, meaning charities and their beneficiaries miss out on vital support. The introduction of fully electronic wills would complicate the process further.”

One possible solution suggested by Mr Millward is taking steps to better regulate and standardise digital wills.

In total, the Law Commission received more than 80 responses to its proposals – which were first published earlier this year. Supporters maintain that the changes would update legislation still rooted in the 19th century, although critics fear that the alterations could increase the likelihood of fraud and family disputes.