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Less formal wills should still hold up in court

10 November 2017

Courts should have the power to recognise and give legal effect to a deceased person’s final wishes even where the formalities of a valid will are not present, the Law Society of England and Wales said today.

The wills process is still largely based on the Wills Act of 1837 and the rules around capacity to make a will stem from 1870.

Law Society president Joe Egan said: “When 40% of people die without making a will – intestate – we know there is more we can do to make the process accessible to the public.

“The lack of a formal will should not restrict a court from respecting someone’s final wishes when those can be proven - with appropriate safeguards against fraud.

“We support efforts to simplify the process of making a will and we acknowledge the need to start looking at technology to support existing practice. There are issues we will need to work through to ensure wills made online can be proven valid, but it is an area for further debate.”

The Law Society also agreed the legal age to make a will should be lowered to 16.

“There are many reasons someone may choose not to make a will, but lowering the legal age to make a will is one more way we can remove barriers,” Joe Egan said.

The Law Commission also proposed updating laws governing testamentary capacity.

Joe Egan added: “We are very supportive of the proposal to adopt the definition of capacity from the Mental Capacity Act 2005. It will bring clarity to courts and protect the rights of the most vulnerable people in our society.”

About the Law Society

The Law Society is the independent professional body that works globally to support and represent solicitors, promoting the highest professional standards, the public interest and the rule of law.

Press office contact: Chris Steer | +44 (0)20 7316 5624