Employment Law Update | July 2021
How modern technology can make you late
The other Sunday I was thinking that there weren’t enough hours in the day. Then I realised the clocks had gone forward. I hadn’t mislaid an hour at all, there were only supposed to be 23.
Putting the clocks forward is much easier these days than it used to be because virtually all of our clocks reset themselves. The clock on your phone, that on the TV, the clock in the car and most others. There are only two clocks in my house which need to be changed manually, the one on the kitchen wall and the one on the mantelpiece in my living room. Throughout the winter, the one in the living room was a minute fast and I thought I would put it right when the clocks changed. It’s now a minute slow but I don’t want to change it again because it is really hard to align it on the mantelpiece so it’s in the middle of the mirror above. Even if I got the time right, I would spend the summer of 2021 stressing about the fact that my house wasn’t symmetrical.
I know I need to get out more, but, then again, who doesn’t at the moment?
Modern technology might have made it easier to reset the clocks, but it can also cause problems in other areas. In 2018 the number of Court cases reaching the High Court in relation to contested Wills increased by 60% compared to 2017. A large part of the reason was that more people these days are tempted to draft their own Will on the basis of something they find on the internet.
The Legal Meaning of Words
The problem is that Will drafting is quite a specialist task. The legal meaning of words can differ from common usage. At best, this can lead to an expensive dispute. At worst, it can render a Will completely ineffective. Even if the template found on the internet is perfect, the words added to it can cause real problems. For example, I have known cases where husbands and wives have left everything to each other without appreciating that this wouldn’t be a lot of use of the second death.
It’s not just the words used that can cause a problem either. Failing to understand the legal process can render a document ineffective too. For example, for a Will to be valid it must be signed in the presence of two adult witnesses, who can’t be people mentioned in the Will. In one case I came across, a husband and wife made Wills leaving everything to each other but witnessed each other’s Wills. When the husband died, the wife was not entitled to inherit under her husband’s Will because she had witnessed it and ended up in Court battling to avoid selling the family home to buy out other beneficiaries.
In a similar case, some parents had had their signatures witnessed by two of their children. There were two problems here. First, the children were beneficiaries under the Wills. The second problem was that the children were 11 and 8-years-old at the time.
It's Not Just Wills
It is not only Wills where homemade drafting can cause a problem. I have come across cases of handwritten conveyancing documents that referred to the wrong property and commercial agreements that were dated before they were signed. Another defective homemade document left a landlord with tenants he couldn’t remove.
The lesson is that while modern technology can be great for many things, when it comes to legal documents you should leave it to the experts. Solicitors go through several years of training to learn to get them right and the peace of mind of knowing there won’t be problems further down the line far outweighs the cost.
For further information contact Mark Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 01423 502211 (but if you arrange a meeting he may be a minute late – the clock on his mantelpiece is wrong).