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Charities could reap the benefits of Will reforms

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A leading consortium has waded into the debate about a possible overhaul of laws relating to Wills.

Plans outlined by the Law Commission last month have garnered a mixed response, with concerns that the proposed reforms could increase the likelihood of fraud and legal disputes.

But Remember a Charity – an organisation which helps promote legacy giving – believes that the changes suggested could prove “critical” in encouraging more people to set their affairs in order.

A more informal approach, a new mental capacity test and a reduction in the testamentary age (from 18 down to 16) are among the headline measures.

Rob Cope, the director of Remember a Charity, argued that an updated system could mean millions more is raised for various good causes.

He said: “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 ensuring that people’s final wishes will be met.

“If the legal sector succeeds in making it easier for people to write a Will, 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 a Will, the greater the potential for including a charitable donation. Even if just a small percentage of people who die intestate were to leave a gift in their Will, this could help close the gap between those that have the desire to give through Wills (35 per cent) and the six per cent of people that leave a charitable legacy.”

The main concern of those more sceptical about the Law Commission’s recommendations is that increased recognition of electronic communications – including emails and phone messages, in certain circumstances – could be open to abuse.