One big area of difference is with Wills and Succession. Our laws on some aspects of Wills were updated in the 1990s, but there are rules which are still based on laws made way back in the 1960s or even earlier.
However, English Law on making Wills is much older and is based on laws made 180 years ago, so it is not surprising that the English Law Commission have launched a public consultation on Wills to make the laws fit for purpose and relevant for this century.
As part of the process they have analysed the statistics of the number of people dying and the number of court grants of Probate and worked out that 40% of the adult population dies without making a Will. In the past this might not have mattered too much as most people had little of value to leave, but that is not true in most cases now.
The Law Commission have decided that this is an area of law that should be modernised but want to find out what people want, given the changes in society, technology and medical understanding that have taken place over the decades.
Areas of great change include
the ageing population and greater incidence of dementia
changing medical understanding of disorders that can affect someone's capacity to make a Will
increasing reliance on digital technology
changing patterns of family life, for example more cohabiting couples and more people having second families
- more people having sufficient property to make it worth deciding what happens to it when they die.
The Law Commission has suggested a number of radical changes, one of which is that people may be allowed to make Wills by text or email, giving the example of someone in an accident being able to make a Will by sending a message on their phone just before they die.
While we are all for encouraging people to make Wills, this proposal could lead to a huge increase in court actions. For example, what if someone wants to get their hands on an inheritance and uses something taken out of context or texted without thinking, usually at the expense of the person who should inherit?
So many people now have lots of unique circumstances some of which are incredibly complicated. It will be very interesting to see how this public consultation will unfold. My instinct is that making a Will may not be as easy as sending a text.