The Law Commission announced last week that they are to begin reviewing the Law in England and Wales that governs the making of a person’s Will. The current legislation which sets out the rules for making a valid Will is the Wills Act 1837 (‘the Act’) and it is thought that certain elements of the Act are now outdated and in need of modernisation. The consultation period is open until the 10th November 2017, after which time any proposed policy changes will be developed.
The Law Commission have commented that the following changes in society mean that a review is now necessary:-
-the ageing population and 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; and
– that more people now have sufficient property to make it important to control to whom it passes after their death.
Amongst other proposals the Law Commission have stated that they are looking at:-
– enabling the Court to dispense with the formalities for a Will where it’s clear what the deceased wanted;
– changing the test for capacity to make a Will to take into account the modern understanding of conditions like dementia;
– provide 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 protecting those making a Will from being unduly influenced by another person;
– lower the age for that a Will can be made from 18 to 16;
– The Commission also wants to pave the way for the introduction of electronic Wills, to better reflect the modern world.
Richard Neea, Head of Wills, Tax and Probate comments that ‘The rules for making a legally valid Will in England and Wales have remained largely untouched since 1837 and it is correct that these should now be reviewed to take into account the huge changes in society that have taken place in the last 180 years. While a review is needed, care must be taken when deciding on any changes to the current law, as people making Wills will need to be sure that the steps they have taken in life, will allow their assets to pass in accordance with their wishes after death. The contents of a Will is one of the most important decisions anyone will make and this importance should not be watered down, or greater uncertainty created, by making legislation changes.’
The Wills, Tax and Probate team at Enoch Evans LLP have a wealth of experience in preparing Wills and are one of a limited number of departments nationally to have received the Law Society’s Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme accreditation. If you wish to discuss how the above may affect you, or you want advice on preparing your Will, please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of our Wills, Tax and Probate team.