Below are the answers given by Lennons Solicitors in the Will Writing Survey, which you can use to compare to others.
How is your service delivered
Service description We offer full private client services – ie Wills, estate planning, LPAs and other powers of attorney, court of protection work, trust, later life advice, estate administration etc. We offer a professional, but practical and personal service to our wide range of clients, both private clients and commercial clients. My aim is to provide peace of mind via detailed, but practical and clear advice, to enable clients to cover their wishes and aims. I invariably raise the question of charitable gifts in wills. I work closely with other professionals eg IFAs and accountants. I work closely with charities, giving talks, Q&As, helped with legacy campaigns etc.
In what ways do you assess your clients’ mental capacity? I am always looking at the question of capacity. If I am told in advance of potential issues, I will discuss, or recommend (depending on circumstances what is discussed) my liaising with the client’s GP regarding capacity, ideally before the meeting. Where I feel capacity may be an issue, when meeting the client, I assess him/her when I am discussing matters with them. I do not use a questionnaire format, but ask open questions re past, present and future matters to gauge their capacity myself. I have learnt over the years that some elderly or ill clients especially can be stressed when discussing Wills etc, or seeing a lawyer. I try and make them feel as much at ease as possible, often talking about non-work related matters to get to know them – and visa versa – and relax them. I only take instructions from the clients themselves and invariably only see them when taking instructions, although this will depend on their wishes and the circumstances. In summary, I assess their capacity by over 20 years experience in specialising in this very personal area of law and always looking at who the actual client is and whether capacity is an issue. My view is that if it takes a number of meetings to be able to do the work for the client, be it in the office or their home (or hospital or care home) that is what will be done.
What processes do you follow to avoid undue influence? Seeing clients by themselves when taking instructions. Looking out for any potential issues – again, based on many years of experience and looking out for this. Only taking instructions from my client and face to face. I – and my team – will not take instructions from any third party. Where possible, reviewing previous will(s) to see if there are any significant changes and, if so, discussing these with the client. In summary, always being alert for an sign of possible undue influence, again based on experience.
What do you offer as part of your will-writing service? • Legal advice
To what extent are solicitors involved in your Will-writing service? • Design • Drafting • Final check Comments: The solicitors deal with all aspects regarding advising the clients in person and subsequent correspondence and the drafting of the Wills.
To what extent are other qualified legal or financial professionals involved in your Will-writing service? If we are referring clients for financial planning or more specialised tax advise, I will refer to the relevant other professional. The legal matters are dealt with by us.
How does your service deal with complex estates (such as those with own business or property abroad, or a trust)? Detailed meetings to ascertain the full background, what the client is hoping to achieve, reviewing all related matters, which often includes matters the client may not have considered. As before, I will bring together the other relevant professional advisors necessary to provide the relevant advice where it is not within my / our area of expertise. In many cases, I am the main facilitator in putting together the necessary to advise the client. Advising on and implementing the advice for the clients.
Do you prompt your clients to consider leaving gifts to a charity? If so, how? Yes. I discuss if they support charities and if they would wish to do so in their Wills. This may well be as long stop beneficiaries – ie if no family survive etc. I discuss charitable giving when discussing IHT – which I do at virtually all my meetings.
What provision does your service make for secure Will storage or future access? We offer to store our clients’ wills, free of charge, in fire proof and water proof safes in our office. We note there may be a charge for copying wills etc in the future, but in my experience we do not raise such charges!
How is your service delivery regulated? • Solicitor Regulation Authority
What formal protection have you got in place for your clients, e.g. liability insurance for will-writing or provision of legal advice, please specify level of coverage? The company has full insurance as required by the SRA and in excess of this.
Are you able to track impact and report on progress e.g. how many inquiries lead to Wills and how many include a charitable gift? How do you do it? We do the former, but not re charitable gifts. This could easily be included via collating details when the file is closed. We keep records and have a marketing data base to monitor this.
How does your product deal with / identify complex Will structures e.g. where legacy is 2nd death contingent gift? We cover this when taking initial instructions and carrying out the fact find with the client. Once identified, we advise on how to deal with this in the will and draft it accordingly. We use side letters regularly where appropriate. all of our Wills are based on a series of precedents but are prepared as a bespoke Will to cover the individual client’s situation.
Are you able to determine customers demographic information e.g. an average age of your client? We have a wide cross section, but most of my clients are 50+. We could record such details, but do not.
If working with a partner charity, are you able to provide monthly activity reports? We would be able to, but this has not been relevant to date.