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Date: 22/08/2017

One of Worcestershire’s leading probate lawyers has said there should be widespread caution over government plans to overhaul inheritance laws – which could see people using text messaging and voicemails to make or amend their wills.

Gary Priest, a partner at county 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.
The 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.
Mr Priest said: “The Law Commission is proposing that basic, written down notes, emails and even voicemails can be used in place of a traditional written will.
“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.”
Mr Priest added that he would be happy to input into the Law Commission’s consultation.
He added: “The final decision must be the right one so it is vital that the Law Commission has a rounded view from different individuals and experts. While I am not against modernisation, I am urging a sense of realism.”
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.