England: Solicitors back recognition of informal wills

The Law Society of England and Wales has said courts should be allowed to recognise informal wills as an expression of people’s final wishes.

The Society has made the proposal in a submission to the Law Commission, which is currently concluding a consultation on will reform, the Law Society Gazette reports.

The commission has suggested courts could have a “dispensing” power allowing them to recognise a will where the formal will-making process has not been strictly followed, but the will-maker’s intentions are clear.

It would include electronic messages or audiovisual recordings.

A recent Australian case in which an unsent draft text message on a man’s phone was accepted as his will recently made global headlines.

Joe Egan, president of the Law Society, said: ’When 40 per cent of people die without making a will 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.”

The Society also agreed with proposals that the legal age to make a will should be lowered to 16 and laws governing testamentary capacity should be brought in line with the Mental Capacity Act 2005.