A Brave New World

6th May 2020 Wills, Trusts & Estate Planning

The Law Commission released its consultation document on reforming the law relating to Wills on 13th July 2017. At the time the news was full of articles saying that we were going to be able to make Wills by text or video and everyone however briefly, was talking about Wills.

There were important questions raised by the report about the law as it stands and how this could be updated to reflect modern life. Bearing in mind that the main law about Wills is now over 180 years old, it is about time we looked at whether it is fit for purpose. 

The consultation document was almost 300 pages long and had 65 questions to be answered before the closing date in November of that year, so it was not for the faint hearted.

One issue raised by the Commission is how to raise awareness of Wills and the Intestacy rules. The report states 40% of people die without making a will, which is a better figure than the 60-70% that is usually quoted, but still very high. We would be very rich if we had a penny for every time we heard someone say “I don’t need to make a will because it will all go to my wife/husband/partner.” Whilst this could be the result of the Intestacy rules, it really does depend on specific circumstances. Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a ‘common law spouse’ when considering the devolution of an estate. If you are an unmarried couple, the survivor gets nothing. Even if you are a married couple, a surviving spouse may not inherit the whole of the estate, depending on the value of the estate and whether there are children. 

So how do we raise awareness of the importance of making a Will? Advertising is the obvious answer, but in these times of financial pressures and with there being other areas of greater focus, we cannot see it being a government priority. Even if it was a government priority, most of us do not want to think about dying and so it isn’t always a personal priority.

Nearly three years on, we are no nearer to having a new set of laws in relation to Wills. On the Law Commission website it advises that they have paused completion of the Wills project to focus on the law concerning weddings. An indication that it is also not the Law Commission’s priority at present.

However, ensuring everyone has an adequate and up to date Will is always a priority to the Private Client team at JMW Solicitors, as we experience first-hand the consequences of a person passing away without one.

JMW Solicitors can offer you a free review of your current Will to ensure it reflects your wishes, or assist you with drafting a new Will.

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Joe Cobb is a Partner and Head of Department located in Manchesterin our Wills, Trusts and Estate Planning department

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