What is the Future of Wills and Probate Technology Post-COVID?

Most businesses and legal departments have had to make changes in the way they operate to meet the requirements of COVID-19 legislation.

For wills and probate, this has meant a fundamental shift from in-person legal work to embracing new remote technologies and platforms. Whether you’re Manchester, Birmingham or London probate solicitors, this nationwide change has affected everyone.

Fountain pen and paper - looks like the writing of a will

In this post, we’re going to cover how COVID-19 has changed the wills and probate technology scene thus far. We’ll then discuss what we expect it to look like in the future, once the pandemic has ended.

How Has COVID-19 Changed Wills and Probate Technology?

Before we look at the future of wills and probate technology after the COVID-19 pandemic has ended, it’s important to know what changes the pandemic has made thus far.

In many different industries across the world, COVID-19 has forced modernisation and a quicker adoption of technologies people have had access to for a long time but never switched over to.

No industry was in more need of a technological reboot than the justice system. Automation of menial tasks has been around for a long time, but the legal sector has widely ignored it and carried on as usual.

This wasn’t entirely their fault, as Section 9 of the Wills Act 1837 in the UK clearly states that a will:

  • Must be in writing
  • Signed by the person making the will
  • In the presence of two or more independent witnesses

So, it has never been the easiest section of law to reform. Once COVID-19 came around, it became almost impossible to meet these standards in person, and the government had to act quickly to change the rules. Temporary legislation was introduced to allow people to use a video link to witness a will.

There was also a change in probate, as the Probate Service was centralised. This was followed by the amendment of the non-contentious probate rules, allowing professionals to engage in online probate services.

These shifts have been a good start for the adoption of wills and probate technology. That said, the government could do a lot more to modernise the way these legal services operate.

What Does the Future Look Like for Wills and Probate Technology?

In order to keep the momentum going and be prepared if disaster strikes again in the future, more wills and probate technology needs to be implemented. But what types of technology will we see for this sector in the future?

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Will Creation Apps

In 2018, the Law Commission decided to modernise the Wills Act, but never finished the changes. Hopefully, with the COVID-19 pandemic making the need for technological advancements clear, this will be picked up again and completed in 2021.

New technologies, like Lifeium’s Will creation app, is an example of what future Will writing technology could be. A dashboard where all your client’s journeys are displayed, data collection technology, and automation to breeze past administrative tasks.

Embracing these new technologies will help streamline an antiquated system by making it faster and more cost-effective than it’s ever been before.

Video Witnessing

Witnessing the creation of a will has already gotten easier, but should continue to grow once COVID-19 has ended. ‘Presence’ now includes ‘virtual presence’, meaning more wills will be witnessed via video link.

The new temporary legislation that allows for this will stay in effect until 31 January 2022. It’s unlikely that, once law firms and individuals are used to this way of witnessing, that it will be taken away.

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Probate Data Collection

New wills and probate technologies, such as Exizent, make compiling probate data easier. They put everything in one place, and allow the solicitors to get on with using their specialised knowledge to help the client.

These technologies also make sure that all the data recorded is accurate. They also allow solicitors to deal with probate more quickly and, therefore, are able to fit more cases into a single day.

One thing that COVID-19 has done is convince people to draft more wills, sadly forcing a lot of people into early probate administration. With this influx of clients, law firms will have to embrace these new platforms sooner rather than later.

Electronic Signatures

The review that the Law Commission are undertaking also includes electronic signatures, which are currently not part of the UK government’s temporary legislation.

If the Law Commission decides that the level of expediency outweighs the risk of fraud, they will likely rule in favour of electronic signatures sometime in 2021, but only time will tell.

Is the Future for Wills Technology Bright?

Today, we discussed how the pandemic has affected the wills and probate technology scene, and what the future will look like for technology in this sector.

In order for actual change to be implemented by law firms, the government will need to change the laws that make remote will signing and probate administration difficult. Each decision they make will have to weigh up the potential fraud issues against the expediency of the technology.

Only once the government is sure that the changes they’re making are safe will they allow law firms to move forward with new wills and probate technology. However, the law firms will also have to embrace this change to adapt to a new world, and a new way of carrying out wills and probate administration.

Interesting related article: “What is Probate?”