Wills and probate law is out of date and needs to be modernised the Law Commission has claimed.
The Commission is an independent body tasked with reviewing legislation and recommending reform where necessary. Its review of wills legislation has now reached public consultation stage.
Modern wills law dates back to the Victorian era, the Commission notes, and they believe it has fallen out of step with 21st Century Britain. The complexity of the regulations could contribute the high rate of intestate deaths they suggest: around 40 per cent of people die without a valid will.
The new proposals include lessening the current requirement for strict observance with points of law as long as the person’s intentions are clear; changes to the current test for mental capacity to bring it closer to the modern understanding of conditions like dementia, with statutory guidance for doctors and similar professionals; and lowering the minimum age for making a will to 16. The use of electronic wills is also under consideration, as is the possibility of changing the current rule that marriage revokes a previous will.
Stowe Family Law Solicitor Jane Gray said:
“The consultation process is a fantastic opportunity to review the archaic rules around making wills and try to make to process more accessible for all. At present if a will does not comply with strict legal requirements then it is considered void. This is so even if the documented wishes do appear valid.”
“When looking at reform, we always need to question what protection the existing regulations give the individual. There are clearly benefits to having certain formal rules but there needs to be more flexibility in certain circumstances. Other jurisdictions for example have the power to dispense with the legal formalities in specific circumstances.”
The deadline for responses to the public consultation is November 10.
You can read more here.
Image by louiscrusoe via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence