Call for new age Wills

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The Law Commission for England and Wales has launched a consultation on new proposals to bring the law around Wills into the "modern world". The public consultation is open until 10 November and the commission is inviting views from members of the public and the medical professions before submitting a report recommending new policies.

This blog explores why the commission thinks this consultation is necessary; explains current UK law regarding Wills; outlines the proposals the commission is consulting on; advises on how you can respond and provides links to further reading...

If you're a regular reader of this blog you'll be well aware of the importance of writing a Will. You'll know that 40% of the adult population of the UK have not done so. You'll be up to date with the rise in court cases where family members contest Wills too.

All these factors, and more, led to the Law Commission for England and Wales launching a consultation around the UK law and Wills in 2013, the pre-consultation phase of which ended last year, bringing increased focus to two areas:

  • How to know whether a person had sufficient mental capacity at the time at which they wrote their Will
  • How to ensure the legal Will writing formalities written into law are still relevant today

What are the perceived problems regarding current law around Wills?

The Law Commission claims that the law of Wills needs to be modernised to take account of the changes in society, technology and medical understanding that have transformed our lives since the Wills Act of 1837 was made. All legal decisions regarding Wills are still made around this piece of legislation.

Specifically, The Law Commission wants to explore legislation changes that take into consideration:

  • Today's ageing population and increasing incidences 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)
  • The increased proportion of people who now have sufficient property to make it important to control to whom it passes after their death

What proposals are the commission considering?

Amongst other proposals, the Law Commission is consulting on how to:

  • Enable courts to dispense with Will related formalities where it's clear what the deceased wanted
  • Change the capacity to make a Will test, to take into account modern understanding of medical decisions such as dementia
  • Providing 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 to protect those making a Will from being unduly influenced by another person
  • Lowering the age at which a Will can be made from 18-16
  • Pave the way for the introduction of electronic Wills that better reflect the modern world

How can you help?

The Law Commission is seeking responses from the public around their experiences of making a Will. The sort of questions they are seeking answers to include:

  • What are the main barriers to making a Will?
  • What are your experiences of disputes over Wills following the death of a loved one?
  • Do you think the rule that marriage revokes a Will should be retained or abolished?

You can download the full consultation paper and answer such questions on page 246. You do not have to answer all questions.


Further reading

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