Last month major reforms to wills were proposed by the Law Commission. The Law Commission said that the laws which currently govern wills are ‘unclear’ and ‘outdated’.
Writing a will can be one of the most important things that you do during your lifetime however around 40% of the adult population have not written one. A will gives you the opportunity to tell your friends, family and indeed the state what it is that you want to happen with your estate once you pass away. Without a will, your estate would fall to the Intestacy Rules. The Intestacy Rules govern that your estate or a portion of it would pass in the first instance to your spouse, then equally to your children, then to your grandchildren, then to your parents and then to your siblings, regardless of whether you want those people to benefit. Therefore, it is important that you have the will to make it clear where you want your estate to go and who you would like to benefit from it.
The unfortunate reality is that at present, where someone dies intestate or where their will may not be valid, this can cause problems for their family and friends.
The two main areas where the Law Commission have been focusing its consultation is testamentary capacity and formalities.
The Law Commission states 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 general population is ageing, meaning wills could be decades old before being enforced. Furthermore, there is a significant increase in the use and reliance upon technology. Could a will written by email or text message be valid? The Law Commission are also considering the changes in patterns of family life. Current legislation means that step-children would not benefit under intestacy rules in the event that a will was not written or valid and upon marriage any previous wills become void.
The consultation is to continue until 10th November 2017 with discussions on electric wills, a loosening of formalities, a change in the test for capacity and the lowering of the age for writing a will from 18 to 16 years of age, amongst other proposals.
There are however concerns as to how electronic wills could attract undue influence, meaning that what is set out within a will is not necessarily what you want but what somebody else wants. There are, however risks of undue influence under the traditional will writing services. The Law Commission are looking at ways to reduce this risk through the reforms.
For more information on the current proposals by the Law Commission visit https://www.lawcom.gov.uk/project/wills/
Rebecca O’Donnell, Head of our Private Client Department, has vast experience in Wills, Probate and Estate Litigation. If you would like to discuss your matter with Rebecca, please call 01457 761 320 or email email@example.com.