Reforming the Law on Wills – Time For Change?

In recent years the Law Commission have made clear their view that the law relating to wills should be updated and brought into the modern age. While this is still under review, the circumstances of the recent case of Ubbi v Ubbi [2018] EWHC 1396 (Ch) brings this issue back to the forefront; highlighting the need for the current law to be compatible with modern life.

Current legislation dates back to 1837 and the Commission have suggested that the rules surrounding wills, and what makes them valid, are unclear and out of touch with the digital age. Under their proposals the Commission would like to see the likes of of text messages, notes, emails and voicemails having some bearing on the determination of what a person’s true wishes are after they have died. This would involve enabling the courts to dispense with formalities for a will where it’s clear what the deceased wanted.

In Ubbi, Mr Ubbi’s had been leading a “double life” prior to his death. He had two households; one with his wife (from whom he was in the process of obtaining a divorce at the time of his death) and one with his partner, Bianca Corrado, with whom he had fathered two children. When he died, Mr Ubbi had not updated his will to make provision for his children. Ms Corrado brought a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 on behalf of her children and was eventually awarded £386,000 from Mr Ubbi’s £3.5 million estate.

At a time when divorces are on the increase and the number of blended families are growing,  until legislative change occurs the courts will continue to hear costly litigation surrounding the validity of wills and what the deceased’s real intentions were. The Law Commission’s proposals would allow less formal types of documents to be considered as a will and could potentially avoid, or certainly reduce, these types of scenarios.

Until the law in this area is modernised we advise that your will should be updated whenever necessary, and particularly after separation, divorce or remarriage.

Nadine Owens

Nadine Owens
Private Client Team
O113 322 2824

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