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Digital Wills: Legal status and technical requirements

The concept of a “digital Will” is becoming increasingly prevalent in our tech-savvy society.

As we move towards a paperless world, the question arises: can a Will that’s stored digitally have the same legal standing as a traditional, paper-based Will?

In this blog, we delve into the legal status of digital Wills and explore the technical requirements that must be fulfilled for them to be deemed legally valid.

Legal status of digital Wills in the UK

In the United Kingdom, the legal framework around Wills is quite traditional.

Under the Wills Act of 1837, a legally valid Will must be written, signed by the testator (the person making the Will), and witnessed by at least two people.

These criteria make it challenging for digital Wills to gain legal recognition in their current form.

However, the Law Commission has undertaken consultations to modernise Will legislation, which could pave the way for digital Wills in the future.

Technical requirements for a legally valid digital Will

If the law adapts to technological advancements, what would the technical requirements for a digital Will look like? Here are some considerations:

  • Encryption and security: One of the primary concerns with digital Wills is ensuring their security. To be deemed reliable, digital Wills would likely need to incorporate advanced encryption methods to protect against unauthorised access and alterations.
  • Digital signatures: While electronic signatures are gaining legal acceptance in various forms of contracts, their validity in the context of Wills is still a grey area. Strong authentication methods would be necessary to ensure the signature indeed belongs to the testator.
  • Witnesses: The requirement for witnesses poses another technical challenge. Digital witnessing could be possible through video conferencing, but this introduces issues of identity verification and coercion.

While digital Wills offer the promise of convenience and better security through encryption, their legal standing in the UK is yet to be fully clarified.

Advances in technology are pushing for legal reforms, but until such changes occur, the traditional paper-based Will remains the safest option to ensure your loved ones receive exactly what you intend.

Consulting with a specialised solicitor can provide more in-depth guidance tailored to your individual circumstances and ensure that your Will is legitimate and well-standing.

Speak to one of our solicitors today for help with estate planning and your Will.

Rachel Blackburn

Head of Wills, Probate and Older Client Services

I joined Mander Hadley’s Wills, Probate and Older Client Services Team in 2018.I specialise in the preparation of Wills, Probate and estate administration, trusts and trust administration and Lasting Powers of Attorney. I also have experience of care fee planning and appeals of Continuing Health Care decisions.