Would electronic wills do more harm than good for the vulnerable - Nicola Bushby in The Times - Boodle Hatfield

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12 Oct 2023

Would electronic wills do more harm than good for the vulnerable – Nicola Bushby in The Times

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Nicola Bushby View profile
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In The Times, Private Wealth Disputes Partner, Nicola Bushby, shares her thoughts on the proposed reforms to combat concerns about the growing occurrence of “predatory marriage” - 'gold-diggers' preying on older or otherwise vulnerable people to marry and inherit their worldly goods. 

Here is what Nicola had to say about the consultation launched by the Law Commission: 

“The consultation on wills is undoubtedly important, but it is fair to say progress has been slow – the process started in 2017 and now the Law Commission has launched this further supplementary consultation. There are uncertainties around making a will, such as which test should be applied to assess capacity to make a will, which are still unresolved.”

“The proposal to scrap the rule that marriage automatically revokes an existing will would afford protection to victims of predatory marriages, but it will almost certainly create new dilemmas, such as an increase in litigation, particularly from spouses bringing claims under the 1975 Act. The Law Commission suggests that any increase in litigation may only be modest. I am not sure I agree.”

 

“I think there is a more critical discussion to have about financial abuse which, in my view, has bec

ome a systemic issue amongst the vulnerable. Predatory marriages are just one aspect of this issue.

“Anyone who has concerns that their relative lacks capacity and is about to enter a predatory marriage or is being forced to make a will can and should invoke the jurisdiction of the Court of Protection.”

The consultation is right to address electronic wills as we must move with the times and embrace digital technologies. However, any updates to recognise digital wills must be in step with robust safeguards against fraud and undue influence, as a digital process will likely make abuse even easier.”

The full article in The Times can be found here (paywall).

However, scrapping the rule on revocation, says Nicola Bushby, a Partner at Boodle Hatfield, would create dilemmas and increase disputes. She is also concerned that it would do nothing to help victims of more common types of financial abuse, who have been influenced, controlled or manipulated by their family or acquaintances to make a will for their financial gain.

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