Can A Will Be Signed Electronically?
Posted on 24th April 2020
With more people than ever releasing the importance of having a valid Will, there is one big question on our Lancaster Wills Solicitors’ minds: will people be able to sign their Wills electronically in the future?
Our Lancaster Wills Solicitors have previously written about making a Will during the COVID pandemic, and how this can be done to ensure you comply with the law around signing a Will, whilst ensuring social distancing rules are upheld. However, a big question that a lot of our clients have been asking is whether they can sign their electronically.
The short answer is … no. As of today, Wills cannot be signed electronically. They have to be correctly signed in front of two independent witnesses.
However, our Lancaster Wills Solicitors have been left wondering whether the law, which is currently almost 200 years old, which dictates how a Will must be signed to be valid, could be updated, or re-considered, due to current difficulties that many people are experiencing with signing their final Will.
It's easy to see how people can argue that signing a Will electronically would be fine: many would argue that if they use their usual signature (adapted electronically), and you can now sign many other documents using this method, what is the issue?
Unfortunately, in many Lancaster Wills Solicitors’ opinions, this could open up a whole host of issues with families and loved ones later disputing the validity of a person’s Will, due to the fact that it was signed with no one else presence.
Currently, if there is any dispute about whether a Will is valid, the witnesses of the Will can generally be called upon to attest to the fact that they were present when the Will was signed. As well as this, if your Lancaster Wills Solicitors have drafted the Will on your behalf, there will be a documented file, with attendance notes confirming the person’s capacity and the presence of our team when the final document was signed. We go through the person’s instructions intensively to ensure that the final document reflects their wishes (as far as is legally possible), and that the Testator fully understands the Will prior to signing the same.
Further to issues around disputing validity of a Will, there also arises another issue: the risk of fraud for those in our community who are most vulnerable or susceptible. For example, if documents could be signed electronically without the presence of two witnesses, what is to stop a loved one making a Will on behalf of their family member or friends (even with the best intentions) that doesn’t reflect their wishes. Or, another chilling example, is a complete stranger assuming your loved one’s identity to make a Will leaving everything to themselves. If there is no need for two witnesses, how can you argue that the final Will isn’t what your loved one wanted? It could be incredibly difficult if you do not have evidence to the contrary.
Whilst our Lancaster Solicitors for Wills have extensive measures in place to prevent such sad situations from occurring, it doesn’t mean that these sorts of issues couldn’t occur if the person didn’t seek the assistance of a qualified Solicitor to draft their Will.
Fortunately, our team haven’t had to come across many instances where families believe a Will has been fraudulently drafted, however, if Wills are allowed to be signed electronically, this could not be the case anymore. We may see a steep rise in the number of people concerned that their loved one’s Wills have been forged.
We wait with eager breath to see how the law will adapt over the coming months and years to bring it more ‘up to date’, if any changes are made at all. As always, we will keep you updated on any changes, and continue to adapt our practice to reflect the same. However, for now, if you need to make a Will (the right way: in front of valid witnesses, who can attest to your capacity, in the event that it’s ever disputed), contact our team online, here, or email us at email@example.com.
Don’t let the current circumstances put you off – you can still make sure your final wishes are carried out, even if you are unable to leave your house at the moment. Our team are carrying out more appointments via telephone, and using socially distant measures to ensure that our clients can still finalise their Will during this difficult time.
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