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Specialist lawyer questions inheritance changes

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A leading lawyer believes that changes to the rules on making wills could be risky for elderly vulnerable people.

He has called for widespread caution over government plans to overhaul inheritance laws – which could see people using text messaging and voicemails to make or amend their wills.

William Rowe, an associate solicitor at law firm mfg Solicitors, has issued the alert saying that the Whitehall-led proposals could see ‘worrying’ pressure being put on the shoulders of elderly or vulnerable people to make last-minute amendments to their will.

These changes are being recommended by the Law Commission with experts from the independent body saying that the current ‘unclear’ system, which dates back to the 1800s, should be relaxed and revolutionised as the digital age accelerates.

“The Law Commission is proposing that basic, written-down notes, emails and even voicemails can be used in place of a traditional written will,” said William Rowe.

“I think it’s clear that the majority of people will back modernisation plans and certain elements of inheritance laws need to be refreshed. However, making it so easy to change an inheritance document will undoubtedly lead to unwelcome and stressful family arguments.

“Someone making a change of heart on their deathbed and recording a voicemail to overrule an existing will, whether pressurised or not, will make many people extremely uncomfortable. It flies in the face of the current requirements which on the whole, have served our system well for over 180 years.”

Under the current laws two witnesses and a ‘testator’ must sign a will for it to be valid.

The Law Commission’s new proposals would allow judges to decide ‘on the balance of probabilities’ whether a recording or handwritten note is an accurate summary of a person’s wishes.