Plans to modernise the law on the making of wills could be crucial to encouraging more people to leave charitable donations in their bequests, according to the legacy consortium Remember A Charity.
The Law Commission has launched a consultation on proposed changes to legacy law, which it says is outdated and often does not allow courts to implement people’s wishes, even if they are clear, because they have not followed legal procedure entirely correctly.
Under the new proposals, the Lord Chancellor would have the power to make provision for electronic wills and the age for being able to make a will would fall from 18 to 16.
The commission has proposed giving the courts the power to recognise a will in cases where formal rules have not been followed but the will-maker has made their intentions clear.
It has also put forward measures that would overhaul the rules protecting anyone who makes a will from being unduly influenced by another person.
The proposals include an update to the rules around mental capacity to reflect modern medical understanding of conditions such as dementia and to provide statutory guidance for doctors and other professionals when assessing someone’s mental capacity.
Rob Cope, director of Remember A Charity, said the moves could raise millions for charity each year by closing the gap between the 35 per cent of people who say they would like to leave money to charity in their wills and the 6 per cent who actually do.
"When you consider that hundreds of thousands of people in the UK die intestate each year, leaving no clear guidelines as to how any assets should be divided among their family, friends and good causes, it is long overdue that the will-writing process is made more accessible, helping to ensure that people’s final wishes are met," he said.
"If the legal sector succeeds in making it easier for people to write wills, while putting adequate safeguards in place for the public and minimising the opportunity for contested wills, this could be a critical step forward for legacy giving.
"Ultimately, the more people that write wills, the greater the potential for including charitable donations."
The Law Commission consultation will run until 10 November.