Do we need to update the laws governing Wills?

So that they reflect a more modern society?

Do we need to update the laws governing Wills?

In Australia the laws were changed in 2006 to allow less formal forms of Will writing which in a recent ruling saw the Australian Court uphold that an unsent, draft, text message found on the phone of person who committed suicide to be a valid Will. This may seem extreme to the way our law currently works but there is now a call for the governance on Will writing to be changed in England & Wales.

One of the main issues to our current Will regulations is that the law governing Wills mostly dates back to the statutes of the Wills Act 1837 and there have been very few updates since. As the law stands a valid Will has to be in writing and the signing of the person making the Will must be witnessed and also signed by two independent people.

However, it is suggested that 40% of adults die without a Will and it is unlikely that the Intestacy Rules (which govern what will happen to our property when we die without a Will (intestate)) are suitable for everyone in that 40%.

The Law Commission has issued a consultation on the laws surrounding making a Will. This is at the stage of public consultation which is ending on the 10th November 2017. Once this has been completed it will be a long time before the Law Commission come to any conclusions, and before we see any amendments for the Law not to mention when they would be implemented.

There are 6 key issues that the consultation is proposing to address in how we do Wills:

  • Ageing population;
  • 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 that property passes after their death.

There are concerns that changes to the current legislation could make it easier for Wills to be made fraudulently and that your wishes after death are not those expressed by you. To be sure that you know that your wishes will be carried out and that you have the peace of mind that you know what will happen to your property when you die always consult a solicitor or a lawyer.

Our Wills, Trusts and Probate team have a wealth of experience and are ranked tier 1 by The Legal 500 for this type of work. To contact one of our Wills, Trusts & Probate lawyers please call 01733 882800 or email info@hcsolicitors.co.uk .

Author

Anne Dickens, Chartered Legal Executive

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This article has been prepared for general interest and information purposes only; it does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. While all possible care has been taken in the preparation of this article, no responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by the firm or the authors.