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Changing your Will in changing times

The digital age may be bringing about a change in one of the oldest pieces of legislation we have. Wills have largely been governed by laws from 180 years ago. The Law Commission published a public consultation in July 2017 however setting out possible reforms.

Nearly 60% of the adult population do not have a Will. The Intestacy Rules specify what happens to a person’s property if there is no Will. These rules may be contrary to what a deceased person would have wanted. For example, an unmarried partner can receive nothing.

The Law Commission considers that the law could do more to encourage people to make Wills.

Areas of possible reform

Some of the key areas relate to the following:

  1. Strict formalities

A Will currently has to meet strict legal requirements to be valid. For instance, two witnesses not being present when it is signed can make it void. It is proposed that the Courts in England and Wales be granted powers which will enable them to recognise a Will as valid in situations where it may currently not be.

There has been a proposal of electronic Wills to allow Wills prepared on computers and mobile phones to be deemed valid in exceptional circumstances (such as where the person making the Will was suffering from a serious illness).

Currently, anyone over the age of eighteen (in most cases) who has ‘testamentary capacity‘, basically the understanding to make a Will, can arrange their affairs and plan who to leave their assets to. There is a proposal to allow people from the age of 16 and over to make Wills to remove the possibility of their assets passing under the Intestacy Rules if they were to die before the age of 18.

  1. Undue influence

The Law Commission is concerned about vulnerable people making Wills and will more closely review gifts to people in special ‘trust’ relationships such as a doctor, solicitor or carer.

  1. Revocation on marriage

A major way to revoke a Will is to get married. A Will can sometimes be revoked without knowing it though if you marry. The Law Commission believes that there are circumstances where this could be reconsidered.

Marriage or civil partnership;

An increase in the size of your assets and/or they are approaching £325,000;

You no longer own assets left in an existing Will;

New beneficiaries have come along or there has been a pre-decease of a beneficiary in an existing Will.

Summary

The public consultation sets out proposals and invites comments from the legal sector by 10th November 2017 with the findings of the public consultation expected in early 2018.

If you have a Will or think you do, it’s always important to review it. If the following apply to you, speak with our Will planning team on 0151 203 1104 and ask about a review.

 

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