Stephen Lawson, Partner at FDR Law and specialist in Will Dispute cases describes two events recently, which had the same conclusion
The first tale - should the law for making Wills be modernised?
The Law Commission is an independent body set up by the Government to simplify and modernise the law. There is a currently review being lead by Professor Elizabeth Cooke relating to the making of Wills and considering whether the law could be reformed to encourage Will making and to make the process easier.
It is a sad fact that over 70% of parents with children under the age of18 do not trouble themselves to make a Will and over 60% of the UK population do not have a Will.
Recently I met Professor Cooke to discuss some of the ways her objectives can be achieved; as a Litigation lawyer I see far too many cases where problems arise where a Will is not made, or where defective Will has been produced (the law relating to Wills was established in 1837 and has not changed very much since).
For example the law requires a Will to be witnessed by two witnesses who are present at the same time. In this modern age should a Will be valid if, for example, it is only witnessed by one witness? Alternatively should a Will made on a computer or on a mobile phone be recognised as valid? These are deep and serious issues to consider, though Professor Cooke is firm in her belief – people should be encouraged to make a Will.
The second tale - when fiction mirrors fact
I enjoy the books written by Rachel Joyce. She wrote a charming book called The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – about an old man who walked the length of England to visit a former work colleague, Queenie Hennessy who was ill in a Hospice.
Rachel has just produced a companion volume called The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy. This is an equally charming and honest book written from the point of view of Queenie whilst she awaits her fate in a Hospice.
One passage in the book particular struck me when a carer says “you need to make a Will, Queenie. You know that don’t you”? Queenie began to cry “it was because she was right and I knew she was right. I had only been waiting for someone to say the words”. The carer went on “its not so terrible, dear heart, to make a Will. It’s like cleaning your house before you go on holiday. It’s only making things neat”.
I thought this was a lovely and innocent way of describing the Will making process – which so many people struggle to deal with – perhaps because of the emotion, fear or sorrow recognised by Queenie.
So there we have it. One clever London professor and one author – both giving the same message – make a Will.