A number of high profile campaigners are calling for the government to allow oral Wills during the coronavirus outbreak to ensure all testamentary wishes are considered.
Whilst many believe that the 1837 Wills Act and its conditions are still being used to ensure abuse, fraud and undue influence are eradicated from the process, Gina Miller, the businesswoman famous for opposing the prorogation of Parliament last summer, believes that current conditions are similar to a wartime environment when oral Wills were permitted.
Gina Miller, businesswoman and philanthropist, commented:
“None of us want to die without, in the time-honoured phrase, ‘putting our affairs in order’, making proper provisions for those we love, or worse, leaving behind unnecessary anguish and paperwork for them. Without a Will, the laws of intestacy decide how assets are divided, which could leave partners and children with very little. The Law also treats unmarried partners as single, irrespective of how long they have lived together and allows courts to decide the future of their children.
“We cannot allow rules about the drafting and witnessing of wills, which are sensible and proportionate in peacetime, to preclude people making adequate provision for those they leave behind in these tragic times. If ever there was a practical problem that cried out for Government attention, for their humanity, this is surely it. It is not just about common-sense but compassion.
“There may be those who say Oral Wills will be open to abuse, but modern technology allows encryption and other online security measures, to address and minimise these risks.”
Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, said:
“We should learn lessons from the bedside wills that an earlier generation of heroes were able to benefit from during the Second World War. This generation is no less valiant or deserving of the dignity and peace of mind that putting their affairs in order will bring.”
However, many legal providers, independent will writers and private client solicitors believe that oral Wills invariably leave a multitude of areas which could be contested and are vulnerable to fraud despite technological support.
Contentious probate cases fought in the High Court reduced from 86 in 2018 to 68, according to the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) ‘Family Court Statistics Quarterly, England and Wales, October to December 2019 including 2019 annual trends’ report.
So, given the fact that contentious cases started to decline last year, introducing a relaxation to a rule which is so open to scrutiny may deter many.