Covid-19 has caused some dramatic changes (albeit some are temporary) in respect of the creation and execution of Wills such as the introduction of virtual online witnessing of Wills. Legacy Foresight has recently conducted some research into the future of the Will sector with a particular focus on charities. The research is entitled Charitable Wills in the 21st Century and the briefing note can be read here.
Legacy Foresight research – Charitable Wills in the 21st Century
The research has made the following key findings:
- The meaning of Wills changes over time (i.e. people of different ages will view the content of their Will differently and thus it will impact on what goes into the Will);
- The legal sector is undergoing huge change as a result of consolidation, mergers forming larger practices and introduction of non-lawyers to the sector;
- ‘Legislative evolution and not revolution’ in that most practitioners believed that the Government is unlikely to abandon the current legal system that has been around since the 19th Century;
- Online Wills are here to stay;
- Charities hit the mainstream in that ‘12% of all current Wills were made using a charity scheme and 26% of charity Wills were made using a free Will service’; and
- Payback on a free Will scheme operated by a charity may take in excess of 30 years and is far from certain given that the take of such a service is usually by younger individuals, whose position and approach may change as they get older.
At Nelsons, we are not at all surprised by the findings set out above. We have always endeavoured to be on the crest of the wave and accordingly have operated online Will services for a number of large leading charities for many years and long before they became mainstream. It is definitely clear to us that the legal sector is going through massive reform but this reform is largely being led by firms like ours, where technology is now at the forefront, leading to new, flexible and agile approaches to dealing with our clients.
We also agree that it is unlikely that the Government will throw away hundreds of years of case law on the current Will procedure. By evolution rather than revolution, we suspect that they are referring to introduction of technology for steps such as witnessing Wills. Clearly the Government introduced a temporary measure in terms of allowing Wills to be witnessed virtually during the pandemic with the introduction of The Wills Act 1837 (Electronic Communications) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Order 2020 SI 2020/952 which allows for Wills to be witnessed by video if the Will was/is made on or after 31st January 2020 and on or before 31st January 2022. We suspect that the Government will wait to see whether the introduction of such a change has led to wide spread abuse before considering making this a permanent feature. Given how far technology has come over recent years, we believe it is inevitable for the witnessing of Wills by video being permanent, whether it is immediately or some point in the future.
Should you operate a charity and wish to discuss anything affecting your organisation, please feel free to contact Kevin or another member of the team in Derby, Leicester or Nottingham on 0800 024 1976 or via our online enquiry form.