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Lowering the legal age to write a will to 16: A consultation

20/09/2017

Author: Bailey Yallop

Wills, Tax and Probate, Legal Updates

The Law Commission is currently holding a public consultation regarding wills. One of the proposals is to reduce the minimum or testamentary age required to make a will from 18 to 16. While the consultation is still ongoing and doesn’t close until November 2017, it does bring to light a more general question – why should a younger person bother making a will?

Having a will as a younger person

It’s easy to think that wills are for older people or people with young children to provide for; but in truth there are a number of reasons why having a will as a younger person is beneficial:

  • So the young person can appoint their choice of executor, who will have control of the arrangements following their death

  • To ensure their wishes regarding passing on any personal items and possessions to a specific friend or loved one are recorded and followed through

  • To make known any specific burial or cremation wishes

  • Perhaps they would want their estate (however great or small) to pass to a charity or charities?

The rules of intestacy

The rules of intestacy (dying without a will), currently mean that if you die without a will and are unmarried with no children, then your estate passes to any family you have at the time of death in this order:

  1. To your parents if living; if not

  2. To your brothers and sisters equally; if not

  3. To any grandparents equally; if not

  4. To aunts and uncles equally; if not

  5. To the Government

While this might not be a problem for most, it may not be the preferred option for someone who is estranged from their family and would not want them to benefit from their death. Anyone wanting to avoid this would be advised to make a will.

The rules also mean partners that are not married or in a civil-partnership will not inherit anything. It’s wise to make a will if you wish for them to benefit.

Law Commission recommendation

In the initial consultation paper published by the Law Commission, it is their recommendation that the testamentary age for wills be lowered. A 16 year old can already marry (with parental consent), join the army, leave school, live alone and make their own medical decisions. It can be argued that the present rules are outdated and have not kept pace with the changing patterns of family life. As a comparison, the testamentary age is already 12 in Scotland.

Peace of mind

Thinking about making a will and what happens to your estate after death will never be the most pleasant experience – but it can be extremely important and give your loved ones and friends the peace of mind that your estate is passing to who you would want to benefit if the worst should happen.

Bailey Yallop is a Paralegal in the Private Client department at Hatch Brenner, Norwich. Contact Bailey on 01603 660 811, or at baileyyallop@hatchbrenner.co.uk if you would like to discuss arranging to draft a will.

Bailey Yallop, Paralegal, Hatch Brenner Norwich

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