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Ministers seeks to calm fears over electronic Wills debate

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The Government has sought to play down concerns that a major shake-up of the legislation relating to Wills could lead to people being able to set their affairs in order via text message.

Justice Minister Philip Lees last week updated MPs on a series of recommendations made by the Law Commission over the summer.

The organisation has argued that current laws are rooted in the 19th century and there needed to be greater scope for so-called electronic Wills.

The proposals divided opinion within the legal sector, with some fearful that such sweeping changes could lead to a greater risk of fraud and an increase in inheritance disputes would follow.

Mr Lees acknowledged that the Commission’s recommendations would take account of changing technology, but sought to dampen fears about where this might lead.

Addressing the Commons, he said: “The Law Commission has not made proposals to allow Wills and other testamentary dispositions to be created by text message or similar informal routes.

“The Law Commission is, however, currently considering the law of Wills, including how the law can provide for the making of electronic Wills, whilst ensuring testators are protected against risks of fraud and exploitation.”

A lot of the controversy centres around the introduction of a dispensing power, which would allow courts in England and Wales to rule a Will as valid even if some of the traditional formalities had not been observed.

This inevitably led to debate about what manner of concessions could be made, with questions raised as to whether an email or voice recording on a smart phone might be admissible at some point in future.

The Law Commission’s proposals remain open for consultation. The exercise will come to an end on 10 November.