The Wills Act of 1837 states that a Will must be in writing, and signed by the person making it (or someone they direct to sign for them) in front of two witnesses who also sign. The person’s signature must appear to be signifying that they want to make their Will valid.

In practice, this means that the Will must be written on paper, and must be signed with ink.

However, two legal cases in recent years have shown how technology is affecting how Wills work in the modern world.

In one case, the original paper copy of the Will was lost, but a version of it was found in a file on the person’s computer after their death. The original witnesses (with no apparent benefit to themselves) testified in court that the Will was signed properly, and there was no clear reason provided as to why the deceased would have destroyed the proper Will.

The judge ruled that this Will found on a computer file, though itself unsigned and not witnessed, would be implemented. The effect was that most of the deceased person’s estate went to their new partner, rather than to their children, which the previous Will would have allowed for.

The second case was in Australia, where the law is similar to the UK. In this case, an *unsent text message* which included bank details, the location of cash, names of beneficiaries and crucially the words “my will”, was declared a valid Will by a judge. Thus, the deceased person’s estate was redirected to those mentioned in the text message, and away from the people who would have inherited had there been no Will.

With the second case being in Australia, it has no impact on UK law, and the first one has very specific circumstances and so could not be relied upon as a legal precedent that could be followed easily by a dissatisfied relative.

Even if these cases could be relied upon, it should be pointed out that they resulted from (presumably expensive and stressful) legal action, at a time when those involved would already be grieving for a lost loved one. Valid paper Wills, properly signed and witnessed and then stored securely, would have avoided this stress and expense.

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