Apps, software and the Will drafter

 In Gill's Blog, Wills

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Apps, software and the Will drafterI don’t know about you, but I feel as though 2020 has been the year of the app for me. I have looked at various applications to do with training and video streaming and spent hours looking and learning how to use Teams, Webex and Zoom. I have come across apps like https://otter.ai/login which takes a transcript of meetings for you. I have investigated a better way to write contracts using Better Proposals https://betterproposals.io/  I have looked at how to host courses using Teachable https://teachable.com/  and how to do it using Woo Commerce. The list goes on and on.

Will drafting software

At the same time, I have long been interested in what software is available for those of us drafting Wills. Some 30 years ago I took a look at Express Wills. I asked one of my team to try it out and she offered me her resignation expecting me to say we would use it and she could not think of anything worse! Of course, we did not pursue the use of it and stuck with our word-processed precedent clauses instead.

Modern software

A few years ago I attempted to design something myself. I was conscious that the market for the production of standard family Wills continued to be fiercely competitive and those regulated were up against the unregulated in terms of charging and profitability. Whilst I still believe that solicitors do not charge appropriately for a standard family Will in many cases, and certainly fail often to charge differently for more complex advice, it is the case that the basic problem is the time it takes to do a proper job. I spent hours working with software designers but was not happy with the outcome so my own efforts came to nought.

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Traditional approach to producing a Will

The traditional way of preparing a Will for a client entails face-to-face meetings or now video streamed meetings with the client to gather information. This is a fundamental first base and depends on good interview skills but also the client being properly prepared. It can often take 45 minutes to one hour in even simple cases.

After that, the Will drafter needs to prepare an attendance note of some kind to ensure their file will be of use in supporting the Will drafter should there be any queries about the Will many years later. This can take almost as long if the Will drafter is typing from scratch themselves or maybe 18 minutes or so if using dictation.

The Will drafter then has to take those instructions and prepare a Will – depending on what standard templates the firm has in place this may again just take 12 – 18 minutes. Good practice would indicate that a draft copy of the Will together with an explanation of the clauses should be sent to the client for approval. Again, the firm may have prepared template clauses for the letter to match the standard Will clauses and it may be compiled in no more than another 12 minutes say. If the firm is not so organised then a bespoke letter would need to be drafted every time which could take easily 18 – 24 minutes.

Then we wait for the client to approve or change their mind over the draft. You may need to chase them at least once for feedback – another 6 or 12 minutes on the chargeable clock.

After the client has approved their Will it needs to be signed. At the moment, that is not so easy and may entail careful compliance with s.9 Wills Act 1837 outside the office or even the use of the highly risky temporary procedure during covid, using video streaming. Either way this now takes more time than previously. Whichever route is taken will require a detailed attendance note. Another hour of chargeable time goes on the clock.

And an LPA too….

Practitioners rightly suggest the common sense of putting in place an LPA or two at the same time as they are often beneficial to clients. This provides the opportunity to charge for these documents on top of the no doubt modest fixed fee for a standard family Will. Despite the greater risks in preparing a Will and the sort of time taken in preparing it I’ve noticed that many firms charge more for doing the LPAs than for preparing the Will.

Saving time but not increasing risks

So, if time could be shaved off the Will production process without increasing the risks involved would that be both more beneficial to the Will drafter but also to the client who would receive a potentially more efficient service, even if they are not bearing the true costs?

This is why I would encourage you to investigate the Will Drafting software now available and consider whether there is a system out there for you which would enhance the quality of the service you deliver, reduce the risks and slim down the time taken in producing the Will and often any LPAs. To help you I have written a White Paper which you can download from here: https://www.lawskills.co.uk/2019/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/white-paper-will-drafting-software.pdf

Let the software take the strain

Now that you have spent the last nine months getting to grips with working from home; using video streaming for meetings and being forced often to go paperless in order to carry out your job, tackling this switch might simply be a walk in the park.

To hear more on the subject of harnessing the benefits of Will Drafting software, why not join me for a webinar on 6 January 2021 between 1 and 2pm – invite and booking arrangements here:https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/why-use-will-drafting-software-tickets-130678118771

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Gill Steel - Solicitor, Trainer in Wills Probate Trust Tax