Lords Discuss Potential Wills And Probate Bills

The new decade is now in full swing and the plethora of proposed private members’ bills making their way through the House of Lords could have huge implications for private client legal service practitioners. 

In total, 84 potential bills will be discussed between now and 05 February 2020. 

For those in Wills, probate and estate administration the bills span from changes to pensions all the way through to a revised Assisted Dying Bill. 

A number of the following important bills were delayed following the proroguing of Parliament and are now being dusted off and reappraised. 

The New Year was extremely happy for a number of opposite-sex couples after the Civil Partnership, Marriages and Death (Registration Etc) Act 2019 extended civil partnerships to heterosexual couples through the Civil Partnership (Opposite-sex Couples) Regulations 2019, which came into force on the 2nd December 2019.  

The Regulations allowed opposite-sex couples to form a civil partnership, extending the protection offered to samesex civil partnerships regarding various rights and benefits, such as parental rights and financial entitlements.  

As couples are required to give a minimum of 28-days notice of a civil partnership, the first civil partnerships took place on New Year’s Day.  

However, far too many couples opt to cohabit without making a legal commitment which is still leaving them vulnerable and exposed. 

On 04 February 2020, the House of Lords will hear and discuss the proposed Cohabitation Rights Bill 2017-19. 

The Bill aims to provide increased protection for persons who live together as a couple as cohabitants. If the bill is passes, it will offer more legal protection concerning property of a deceased cohabitant who are survived by their partner. 

This bill has been around the fringes for 13 years, and it had been thought that due to the proroguing of parliament and lack of a mention in the Queen’s speech, it would be even longer before it would be contemplated again. 

It was back in 2007 that the Law Commission issued a report making recommendations that would afford more rights to cohabiting couples, following up with further provisions in 2011 regarding intestacy and other related provisions. 

The aim of the bill is to ‘address economic unfairness at the end of a relationship’ for cohabiting couples.  

If passed, the Bill would give former cohabitants the right to apply to the court for a financial settlement order and ‘enable courts…to adjust the financial position of qualifying cohabitants on relationship breakdown, so as to spread the financial consequences, benefits and costs fairly between them’. 

Additionally, amendments to the Inheritance Act Bill and Pensions Bill will also be discussed on 14 January and 16 January respectively. 

Significant bills will be discussed concerning end of life care and decisions during the next House of Lords sitting. This includes a revised Assisted Dying Bill and Right to Die at Home Bill. 

In 2014, Lord Falconer proposed the Assisted Dying Bill allowing terminally ill, mentally competent adults to have an assisted death after being approved by two doctors. Although two opposition amendments aiming to derail the Bill were defeated in 2015, the General Election took precedence and the Bill lapsed before it could be fully scrutinised and ratified by Parliament. 

When Rob Marris reintroduced a reformed version of the Assisted Dying Bill towards the end of 2015, it was defeated during the second reading following a fourhour debate. 2017 iterations were also reluctantly rejected by Parliament. 

On 28th January 2020, Lord Falconer will reintroduce the Assisted Dying Bill in the hope of making it legal to assist a terminally ill person in ending their life and suffering without facing the threat of prosecution. 

 Similarly, Lord Warner’s Right to Die at Home Bill will make provision for any eligible person resident in the United Kingdom to have an effective right to die at home or at the place that the person regards as home as opposed to the sterile and unfamiliar hospital environment. 

Having already been read in July last year and consequently delayed in the proroguing of Parliament at the end of last year, it is hoped the latest version will garner similar levels of support when it is discussed on 30 January 2020. 

What impact will these bills have on the sector if they successfully make their way through Parliament? 

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