Reforms proposed to will drafting laws

Rebecca Parr

Following a 2017 consultation by the Law Commission on the reform of the current law on wills, solicitors are concerned that the proposals will result in an increase in legal fees because the burden placed on them (including assessing mental capacity) will be much higher.

Our current laws about the preparation of wills date back to the 19th Century and the review has been prompted due to immense changes in society, medicine and technology, the objective being to modernise and improve the current law in this area.

The proposed reforms include:

  • lowering the minimum age for making a will from 18 years to 16 years;
  • adapting to the use of electronic wills;
  • introducing new tests for testamentary capacity (the mental ability to make a will);
  • ditching the term “testator” in favour of “will writer”;
  • giving the court the power to recognise a will where the statutory formalities have not been complied with; and
  • providing for a more modern test as to testamentary capacity as provided for in the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

Solicitors are concerned that their increased responsibilities, could mean that an increase in legal fees will be inevitable. This in turn could lead to more people using uninsured, unregulated and unqualified “will writers”, which in recent years has been a major contributing factor in the increase in will disputes.

Abbie Kingdon, head of Private Client Services at Samuels Solicitors, says: “a will is an extremely important legal document which sets out a testator’s wishes on death.  An incorrectly drafted will can have catastrophic consequences, leading to contentious proceedings and huge legal costs. It is therefore always advisable to seek expert legal advice when you need a will, to ensure there are no problems later on”.

The consultation process closed on 10 November 2017, and the outcome remains to be seen.

If you already have a will, we will check it for you for free, to make sure that it is compliant with the current law.  

If you need help drafting a will, we will always carry out this work for you on a fixed-fee basis, so there are no nasty surprises later on. 

If a loved one has died and you are involved in a dispute about a will, our experts can help you find a resultion. 

Contact us today for a free initial discussion.