What does the Programme for Government mean for probate lawyers?

18 June 2020


Its really the question that everyone’s asking isn’t it? But for those of you who may be asking the question, the answer is, quite a lot really. Here is a quick guide to the highlights and my reflections on this:-

  • Enacting the Human Tissues Bill, providing for the legal basis for an opt-out system of organ donation and delivering a public information campaign. This is to be welcomed. I include questions on organ donation in my standard wills checklist and I am surprised how few clients have ever considered it, but also encouraged how many clients are open to the possibility. Also, this type of legislation is well worth monitoring to see what other items might be brought in at the same time under any “Miscellaneous Amendments” section in this type of legislation;
  • Enacting the Assisted Human Reproduction (AHR) Bill. This bill looks to regulate a range of practices, including: gamete (sperm or egg) and embryo donation for AHR and research; surrogacy; posthumous assisted reproduction; and embryo and stem cell research. The General Scheme also provides for the establishment of an independent regulatory authority for AHR;
  • Implementing the National Dementia Care Strategy;
  • Finalising a code of practice on Advanced Healthcare Directives to allow for the full commencement of the legislative framework;
  • There is a promising section at pages 51 – 52 on end of life care;
  • Commence the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 (ADMA 2015) to abolish wardships;
  • There is aspirational language and targets at page 65 with respect to encouraging the next generation of farmers to engage in farming;
  • Adult Safeguarding. In this regard, the Programme for Government certainly lacks ambition. It states that “We will review and improve the national policy document Safeguarding Vulnerable Persons at Risk of Abuse, National Policy and Procedures”. However, a complete review of this policy is well underway and a first draft has been prepared. This was due to be implemented shortly in any event. What is disappointing is that there is no reference to establishing an Adult Safeguarding Authority. It is clear that for the Authority to be established consistent lobbying will be required;
  • Enacting legislation implementing the revised Nursing Homes Support Scheme arrangements for farmers and business owners;
  • Enacting a new Family Court Bill and a new Family Law Court within the existing court structure; and
  • Modernise the law on the administration of oaths in judicial and other proceedings.

There are significant developments in all of this for those who practice in will drafting, acting for the elderly and probate practice. In particular, there is a crying need to commence the ADMA 2015 to bring much clarity in relation to the area of assisted decision making and to reform wardship and enduring powers of attorney.