Texts, emails and voicemails could be considered a valid will by courts under a radical overhaul of inheritance laws being proposed by the Law Commission.
It believes present rules concerning wills are outdated and need to be brought into the "modern world" because they are "failing to protect the vulnerable" by not taking into account conditions like dementia.
While it accepts its proposals on electronic communications could cause family arguments or worse, it said the current rules are "unclear" and their strict formality needs to be softened to encourage more people to make a will.
Around 40% of people die without making one.
The Government's law reform advisory body has launched a consultation on its recommendations for smartphone, tablet or other messages to be recognised as a will if approved by a judge.
It would mean the family of a car crash victim who did not make a will could apply to have the intentions they expressed in a text message, email or voice recording recognised as a last testament.
Proposals also include a call for the legal age to write a will to be lowered from 18 to 16, and a new mental capacity test which takes into account conditions which affect decision-making like dementia.
By Sunita Patel-Carstairs, News Reporter, Sky
The last Will & Testament of Lord Lucan’s Widow
The Dowager Countess of Lucan has left the entirety of her fortune to a homeless charity.
Lady Lucan was found dead in September 2017 at her Westminster home, with an inquest last week ruling that she has taken her own life following a self-diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. This diagnosis, however, was false.
It’s now been confirmed by Shelter that the Countess bequeathed her fortune to the homeless charity, having cut her three children from the will. She had cut ties with her family in the 1980s, a relationship severance which continued right up until her death.
A spokeswoman from Shelter highlighted the generosity of the charitable donation, especially during a time where the issue of homelessness is rarely out of the headlines.
She stated: “At a time when over 300,000 people in Britain are without a home, we are incredibly grateful for the support we receive. The proceeds from Lady Lucan’s estate will help Shelter to continue fighting bad housing and homelessness.”
World's oldest granny dies aged 119
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania - Sarah Knauss, listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's oldest person, has died at the age of 119, according to a spokesperson at the Allentown nursing home where she lived.
Knauss, who was 20 when the 20th century began, apparently died of natural causes at about 3pm (2000 GMT) on Thursday, said Marcella Moyer Schick, executive director of the Pheobe-Devitt Homes Foundation.
"She died quietly in her room. She was not ill," she said. "They had stopped in to see her just less than an hour before, and when the nurse went back, she had passed away."
Knauss, who was born on September 24, 1880, and lived a quiet life as a homemaker and insurance office manager, found herself in the international spotlight after the Guinness Book of Records declared her the world's oldest person in 1998 upon the death of Marie-Louise Febronie Meilleur of Quebec, who was 117.
When her family members walked her into the dining room to tell her of her new fame, she smiled and said: "So what?"
Her death came just three days before she would have laid claim to having lived in three different centuries.
"Sarah was an elegant lady and worthy of all the honour and adulation she has received," said Joseph Hess, an administrator at the nursing home.
Even at 119, she never stopped being amazed by mankind's ability to create new ways to hurt each other, heal each other and explore the world, her family said.
"She always loved to hear about this new invention or that new invention," her daughter Kathryn Sullivan, 96, said in a 1997 interview. "She liked to remind people that no matter how bad things seemed, she could remember a time when things were worse."
Knauss, born in the coal town of Hollywood, Pennsylvania, lived through seven US wars, the sinking of the Titanic and Charles Lindbergh's solo flight across the Atlantic. She was older than the Brooklyn Bridge and was born before the dedication of the Statute of Liberty. She was 28 when Henry Ford introduced the Model T and 88 when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.
When asked in a 1995 interview if she enjoyed her longevity, Knauss said: "I enjoy it because I have my health and I can do things."
Sullivan, of Allentown, had described her mother as a tranquil person who nothing could faze. "That's why she's living this long," she said. Knauss is survived by her daughter, several grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. - Sapa-AP Christopher Newton -
Nearly a third of parents unwilling to leave estate to their children for fear they will lose it in divorce
Almost a third of parents are unwilling to give their married children financial aid or inheritance for fear that the money will be lost from the family through divorce. In a survey by Investec Wealth & Investment, 30 percent of respondents were in this camp, with 14 percent having little confidence that their children's marriage would last long-term. In a bid to see savings stay in the family, 14 percent of parents said they decided to skip a generation and leave assets to their grandchildren. Another 13 percent said they were considering a discretionary trust, which could help to protect family wealth from the threat of divorce. Along with divorce, 42 percent of parents doubted their children's abilities to manage financial affairs.
(Source: This is Money)
Pass on passwords before you die or family will be locked out of accounts, funeral directors warn
Funeral directors are urging people to keep a record of all their internet accounts and passwords so loved ones can retrieve photos, music and savings after they die. As more and more aspects of our lives are managed online, The National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF) says unless provision is made for passwords to be passed on, personal items stored online could be lost forever. Millions of photographs are now stored online. Others have hundreds of pounds worth of music and films in online accounts while bank accounts and savings are in password-protected accounts.
SAIF says access to funds could be delayed if no provision is made to pass on online banking details after someone’s death. Social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter could also remain inactive for years after a loved one’s death if passwords are not shared or clear instructions left. It has launched a campaign urging people to leave instructions, alongside their wills, on how loved ones can access online accounts. In a booklet, which has been sent to 870 of its funeral directors, it gives advice on safeguarding digital legacies. It states: ‘Worrying about social media accounts after we have died may seem trivial to some people but, to others, that carefully honed Facebook page and those precious tweets may be a gift for their loved ones. ‘Of course, social media is only the tip of an ever expanding iceberg. What about your online banking accounts and savings? The money in them will go into the ‘pot’ with other bank accounts, but the problem is that whoever is dealing with your assets might not even know they exist and they are not going to get a paper statement through the post to alert them to your digital stash.’ It advises people to keep a log of online investments, including passwords.
The Law Society has also urged people to maintain a list of online accounts to make it easier for family and leave clear instructions about what should happen to their social media, computer games and other online accounts after their death. It recommends a Personal Assets Log, which includes a list of online accounts but no passwords or PINs. It has been revealed that more than £30billion of digital goods bought through iTunes and Amazon could vanish when their owners die. A number of firms now offer customers the option of including a ‘digital will’ alongside a traditional one designed to tie up their affairs on the internet. They can include instructions on how to close down accounts on social networking sites such as Twitter or delete emails or photos on Facebook.
(Source: The Daily Mail)