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Thu 20 Jul 2017

Law Commission consultation on Wills

 

The law governing the making of wills is 180 years old, having been established in the Wills Act 1837. For the first time since the Victoria era, this legislation will be reviewed in consultation published this month by the Law Commission. 

 

The Commission has found that 40% of the population do not have a will. When someone dies intestate (the term used where the deceased has not left a will), difficulties can arise adding to overall stress at an already challenging time. Complexities within the current legislation can also, at times, bring the validity of ones will into question. The purpose of the consultation set out by the Commission is to assess whether the current law can be modernised in order to encourage more people to make a will.

 

Since the start of 2016 the Law Commission has been researching the law and potential changes through meeting with a range of stakeholders. The factors they have considered are:

 

the existence of people owning much larger estates;

- changing patterns of family life such as cohabiting couples;

- an ageing population with a greater incidence of dementia;

- an increased reliance on digital technology; and

- a greater medical understanding of conditions that can affect ones capacity to make a will.

 

The proposals set out in the consultation include:

 

 - allowing the court greater flexibility to dispense with the formalities for a will where the testator’s intended wishes are clear;

- introducing electronic or online will writing;

- reducing the legal age someone can make a will from 18 to 16;

- introducing new rules to protect those making a will from undue influence;

- using the Mental Capacity Act test to establish ones capacity to write a will; and

- providing guidance for medical practitioners conducting assessments to determine ones testamentary capacity.  

 

The Law Society of England and Wales have commended the way in which the Commission has tackled this issue and drawn attention to the complexities of legislation surrounding making wills, for example the question as to how safe electronic wills would be from fraud. They welcome steps towards updating the law and making them fit for purpose in the 21st century.

 

Consultation will be open until 10th November 2017. Views from medical professionals and the general public in respect of the barriers they see for people making a will are welcome. Personal experiences of disputes along with general thoughts on the proposals are also welcome.

 


Tyla Robins is a Solicitor at JPC Law

For more information on wills, inheritance tax and probate, please contact her:

E: trobins@jpclaw.co.uk

General Enquiries:

E: enquiries@jpclaw.co.uk

T: 020 7625 4424

 

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