June 24, 2011
CAROL COULTER Legal Affairs Editor
MEDIATION SHOULD be mandatory in cases of disputed wills where there are concerns about the vulnerability of the person who made the will, according to the president of the Law Society.
John Costello, speaking at the the inauguration of Solicitors for the Elderly Ireland, said the present system for challenging wills on the grounds of testamentary capacity was cumbersome and costly, and mediation was preferable.
He said a Law Society committee was working on guidelines for solicitors dealing with vulnerable people whose capacity may be an issue.
It should be mandatory that the same solicitor could not represent both sides in a property transaction involving a vulnerable person, he said.
He also urged the Government to publish the mental capacity Bill, which deals with such issues, and provide for Advanced Care Directives, where people threatened with incapacity can make provision for their future.
He said the Law Reform Commission had published valuable proposals on this.
Ms Justice Mary Laffoy also advocated the use of mediation when wills are contested and in other areas involving vulnerable people.
She said in her experience it could be worrying to see cases where it appeared undue influence was being exercised on elderly and vulnerable people.
Specialisation in the area of the rights and entitlements was important for lawyers, she said, and she welcomed the formation of an organisation that could engender the development of knowledge in the area.
Mary Condell, the first president of the organisation, said it would bring together solicitors and barristers who specialised in this area of work, and would provide education and training for those who wanted to do so.
It would also get information out to older people that they had rights, in particular the right to independent, impartial legal advice.
It would work with Government and voluntary agencies on developing policies to meet the needs of all adults who were at risk whether elderly or vulnerable, she told The Irish Times.
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