Selling Wills and Estate Planning during lockdown

James Moore, Estate Planning Consultant

Recent legislation changes now allow fully remote Will writing from start to finish, including remote witnessing of signatures

2020 has been an incredibly challenging year for many in the financial services industry. To ride the ‘Lockdown Wave’ we have all had to embrace new technologies and learn to sell remotely. For The Right Will and Estate Planning this has meant moving all of our training courses online and improving our systems to enable a completely paperless sales process.

Lockdown 2.0 made this issue’s article a no-brainer. To share the good news that, not only is our entire sale process now possible online, so too is the witnessing of Wills and Trusts via video link.

Unlike mortgages and protection, Wills and Estate Planning are not currently governed by the rigours of the Financial Conduct Authority, nor require specific qualifications to be able to advise on them. Unlike many other Estate Planning companies, we chose early on to self-regulate by only allowing financial professionals to use our services and by becoming members of STEP (society of trust and estate practitioners). STEP is the leading professional body for Estate Planning, setting industry standards and ensuring its members provide the most up to date advice for clients.

The legal industry is undoubtedly one of the most archaic industries in the country, with laws still valid from the 1800s, if not before. The slow pace of change was made painfully evident by the initial reluctance to accept digitally witnessed Will documents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a result of growing pressure over the last few months, STEP have recently changed their code of conduct to allow remote instruction-taking and witnessing to take place. We have followed their guidance and adapted our process and methods quicker than most in the industry to allow a completely remote service from beginning to end.

The legislation that allows people to witness a Will being executed via a video a link was introduced through s.8 of the Electronic Communications Act 2000. This legislation was not in force during the last lock down meaning that advisers were forced to come up with creative ways to witness Wills. For me, this meant witnessing Wills over a fence, from the boot of my car and through client’s windows…so I’m glad to see this change bring us up to the 21st century!

It is anticipated that this legislation will remain in place for two years until January 2022, allowing plenty of time to validly execute Wills using Zoom, Skype, Whatsapp, FaceTime etc.

Of course, despite legislative change, many advisers have found it difficult to adapt to remote selling. Though it may never be possible to satisfactorily replicate a face to face meeting online, drastically improved video calling services have made remote meetings much more personable. Let us also not forget that, since March, video calls have been the main way for many of your clients to conduct meetings and keep in touch with friends and family. Even older clients are now used to online communication.

Conducting business online offers significant time and cost benefits. In addition, services such as zoom offer a recording service which protects you and your client should their planning be contested in the future.

To help our advisers make the transition to the online world we have; created ‘how to’ zoom guides, hosted webinars with sales tips for remote selling and shared customisable marketing emails for advisers to send to their client base.

For advisers who do not want to sell remotely, our referral service has been extremely popular with advisers and clients alike. With Will enquiries up by 75% since the start of the pandemic, there has never been a better time to add Wills and Estate Planning to your portfolio of financial services. Our next online foundation course will be held over two afternoons on the 2nd and 3rd December.

Contact us to book your place or to find out more about how to grow your business with Wills and Estate Planning.