Will-Substitutes from a Comparative Perspective – a conference

Lady Margaret Hall was the venue for the highly successful two-day ‘Will-Substitutes from a Comparative Perspective’ conference held on 27 and 28 March 2015. The conference was organised by Professors Alexandra Braun (Faculty of Law, University of Oxford) and Anne Röthel (Bucerius Law School) under the auspices of the Institute of European and Comparative Law and with the generous financial support of a British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant.

Participants included academics, research students, and legal practitioners from the pensions, estate planning and financial sectors joining from sixteen different jurisdictions. They came together to discuss the role and the impact of the use of various instruments for the transfer of wealth on death outside probate, such as pension scheme nominations, life insurances, different types of bank accounts, including joint accounts, trusts and foundations, the donatio mortis causa, clauses in partnerships and corporations, conditional gifts and post-mortem mandates.

The purpose of the conference was to shed light on the scale and the complexity of the transfer of wealth on death by means other than wills and intestacy. Its aim was to investigate not only how and why people transfer their wealth through alternative devices, but for the first time also to compare how different legal systems respond to the proliferation of will-substitutes. The papers explored the tensions will-substitutes create within the policy considerations underlying succession law, as well as ways of tackling their use, which is gaining increasing practical relevance, and has the potential of undermining the purpose and scope of current succession rules.

On the first day, legal experts from various common and civil law jurisdictions introduced the approaches to recent trends in the transfer of wealth, and discussed potential problems and perils, from the perspective of their own varied legal system. Reports from individual countries were followed by papers addressing overarching themes such as the transfer of wealth from the perspective of business, and on the second day, the impact of the developments on creditors and family members and dependants. Papers were followed by lively discussions which highlighted the importance and timeliness of the topic.

The proceedings of the conference will be published by Hart Publishing in a collection edited by Professors Alexandra Braun and Anne Röthel in the series Studies of the Institute of European and Comparative law at Oxford.