Law Commission Reforming Wills Law

Published / Last Updated on 14/08/2017

Last Will and TestamentReforming Wills Law.

The Law Commission has launched a PUBLIC consultation (i.e. they want your feedback) on possible changes to the law on wills and testamentory dispositions. 

The commission suggests that 40% of the UK population still do not have a will and part of the this is the difficulty in making one or indeed how complex they can become.

Current law

The law in England and Wales that governs wills is mainly derived from the Wills Act 1837. The law that specifies when a person has the capacity to make a will was set out in a case from 1870.

The commission suggests that the law of wills needs to be modernised to take account of the changes in society, technology and medical understanding that have taken place since the Victorian era.

The significant changes relevant to a review of wills law include:

  • the ageing population and the greater incidence of dementia;
  • the evolution of the medical understanding of disorders, diseases and conditions that could affect a person’s capacity to make a will;
  • the emergence of and increasing reliance upon digital technology;
  • changing patterns of family life, for example, more cohabiting couples and more people having second families; and
  • that more people now have sufficient property to make it important to control to whom it passes after their death.

What’s in the consultation?

The Law Commission is consulting on proposals to:

  • enabling the court to dispense with the formalities for a will where it’s clear what the deceased wanted
  • changing the test for capacity to make a will to take into account the modern understanding of conditions like dementia
  • provide statutory guidance for doctors and other professionals conducting an assessment of whether a person has the required mental capacity to make a will
  • new rules protecting those making a will from being unduly influenced by another person
  • lower the age for that a will can be made from 18 to 16.

The Commission also wants to pave the way for the introduction of electronic wills, to better reflect the modern world.

Questions they have for the public:

  • What the main barriers you see to making a will?
  • Tell them about your own experiences of disputes over wills following the death of a loved one
  • Whether the rule that marriage revokes a will should be retained or abolished?

Comment

It makes sense to make wills easier to access.  It makes sense to bring them into the 21st century.  We are not so sure about 16 year olds making a Will unless there is going to be a wholesale change to when you legally become an adult.  That said, all children can have pension funds and Junior ISAs.  In addition, 16 year old’s are able to control their own cash savings and even start new Help to Buy ISAs to save for a mortgage deposit.  Perhaps, reform is needed.

The consultation is open until 10th November 2017.  Visit the Law Commission website to offer feedback: http://www.lawcom.gov.uk/project/wills/


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