Law Commission consultation on wills a welcome step towards modernisation

A public consultation by the Law Commission is a welcome step towards updating our will-making laws to keep them fit for purpose in the 21st century, the Law Society of England and Wales said today.

The Law Commission consultation paper seeks feedback from the public on a range of issues around how wills are made and how the law protects will-makers from fraud.

“Making arrangements for after we pass away is something we all have to do, and something solicitors assist their clients with every day,” said Law Society president Joe Egan.

“While the basics of how we make wills have stood the test of time, other aspects are in urgent need of updating to reflect modern life, and this will be a welcome opportunity for solicitors to help shape a new, fit for purpose wills law.

“Our Wills and Equity expert committee have been working closely with the Law Commission throughout this project, and will continue to do so through the consultation process.”

Key issues raised in the consultation paper the Law Society will be focusing on include:
· Giving the court greater flexibility to uphold wills that do not meet legal requirements
· Using the Mental Capacity Act test to establish capacity to write a will
· Introducing a statutory presumption of capacity to write a will
· Reducing the age at which someone can make a will from 18 to 16
· The possibility of online or electronic will writing in the future.

“Some of the proposals, such as allowing the court more flexibility when there are harmless errors in a will but the deceased person’s wishes are clear, show immediate promise and are likely to get a positive response from solicitors,” said Joe Egan.

“Others, such as enabling wills to be made electronically in the future, raise important but challenging questions, especially on how safe electronic wills would be from fraud or undue influence against vulnerable people. We will need to examine these issues carefully to help the Law Commission avoid unintended consequences such changes might create.

“We congratulate the Law Commission on tackling this important law reform task and thank them for the open and constructive way they have been working with our experts throughout this project. We look forward to working with them as it continues.”
13 July 2017

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