Will laws should be “modernised”

The current law around wills should be “modernised” to reflect modern society, according to the Law Commission for England and Wales.

People can use wills to distribute their estate to beneficiaries after they die.

A will is legally valid if it is voluntarily written by someone who is over 18 and signed in front of 2 witnesses (both over 18) who must also sign it in your presence. 

The Law Commission states the current rules, derived in 1837, are “unclear” and “outdated” and could be putting people off from making a will.

Significant law changes under review include:

  • changing the mental capacity test to consider conditions like dementia, which could affect your capacity to make a will
  • considering cohabiting couples and people with second families
  • lowering the age a will can be made from 18 to 16.

The Commission also wants to address an increasing reliance on digital technology, in order to recognise texts and emails as potentially valid wills.

Professor Nick Hopkins, law commissioner, said:

“Even when it’s obvious what someone wanted, if they haven’t followed the strict rules, courts can’t act on it. And conditions which affect decision-making – like dementia – aren’t properly accounted for in the law.

“That’s not right and we want an overhaul to bring the law into the modern world. Our provisional proposals will not only clarify things legally, but will also help to give greater effect to people’s last wishes.”

Talk to us about making a will.

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