Boss of Liverpool digital firm Videosign calls on Government to allow wills to be signed electronically. Tony McDonough reports
Videosign chief executive Steven Tallant says the instance that will must be signed using ink pens is now outdated and needs to be reformed.
Based in Liverpool, Videosign has developed an electronic signature platform that uses artificial intelligence-powered facial recognition and video technology to verify the identity of document signatories.
It offers an online meeting platform with the facility to record video and other evidence such as IP addresses and timestamps to allow for e-commissioning and remote witnessing of signatures on legal documents ranging from affidavits to contracts.
Current law requires wills to be signed with pen and ink and witnessed in person. A temporary amendment allowing wet signatures to be witnessed online was introduced in England and Wales during the COVID pandemic. This will expire in January 2024.
Now Steven has written to Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice Lord Bellamy to make the case for updating the legal framework for making wills.
He said: “It’s legal to sign most contracts and documents online these days, but wills remain one of the few areas where a pen-and-ink signature is required.
“There are very good reasons why the security and probity of wills is taken seriously. But there are equally valid reasons to improve processes in the UK to take advantage of the benefits technology has to offer.
“Other countries are now ahead of the UK in terms of modernising this area of law. For example, many US states are introducing laws allowing wills to be both witnessed and signed digitally.
“I hope that Lord Bellamy will agree with me that there is an opportunity here to modernise this archaic process.”
A recent personal experience had given Steven additional insight into the shortcomings of relying on paper wills.
He explained: “The flaws in the current system were brought into focus for me recently after my aunt died suddenly in December of last year, and I was named as executor of her will.
“The process took months to complete, largely due to queries that were raised over the authenticity of the will – which was legally required to be written on paper and signed in ink.
“Statements from witnesses had to be sent in the post, documents went missing, and the whole process dragged on for longer than it needed to.
“All of the issues could have been resolved in minutes by referring to the video evidence and digital documents if technology had been used to sign the will in the first place.