Posted by Sam Warner, head of legal content at Legal Futures Associate Arken.legal
When it comes to online wills, there are many passionate viewpoints. Many progressive professionals and technologists consider them an essential step in the futureproofing of the industry.
Others are more concerned about the online process and its ability to cover the intricacies of client wishes, as well as identity and capacity verification.
We at Arken.legal have been pioneering online wills since 2001 but still the question is asked: why offer an online will?
Millennials are increasingly needing wills – gaining assets, getting married, having children – and they trust and expect to be able to do it online, preferably on their mobile phone.
And if 2020 has taught us anything, it is that we don’t know what’s around the corner. Businesses need to be flexible in the way they deliver their services and in a way in which their clients wish to buy – in recent months, that has been the ability to buy immediately.
The solution, we believe, is to offer a quality, comprehensive, flexible, and secure service for straightforward instructions while at the same time generating leads for those more complex instructions.
Rather than list the many reasons why online wills are the future of estate planning, I thought I’d put your mind to rest about the most common misconceptions or objections.
“How do you assess testamentary capacity and undue influence in online wills?”
The most common objection surrounds capacity or the need to ensure that the testator is not subject to any undue influence.
Doing it online can offer that vulnerable person the opportunity to complete their will in private and at a time of their choosing. It can thereby actually reduce the risk of undue influence.
By offering a checked online will, a professional can reduce the risk further by enquiring as to any unusual bequests or any changes from previous wills they may hold – all of this can be done remotely.
A comprehensive online wills system should also have a robust series of questions to allow testators to self-assess capacity and should enable them to refer to professional advice if they have any concerns in this regard.
“Clients won’t know what they’re doing”
With the right partner, it is a straightforward process. For example, our packs include the will, signing instructions and a plain English commentary.
Additionally, you can choose whether to provide self-service or a fully supervised service. Should a client’s will become complex, then having the latter option is a fantastic lead generator.
But just imagine what you could do with the time you save writing straightforward wills?
“They only produce very simple wills – a pure online process can’t cover all of the intricacies and nuances of family dynamics”
A simple will is very different from straightforward instructions. You’d be surprised by the complex scenarios that online wills can cater for – from funeral directions to multiple levels of distribution. As long as they are not areas requiring specialist input, such as trusts, multipart wills and inheritance tax – they can handle a number of intricate requirements.
Straightforward instructions can still lead to quite complex wills but all done online, either self-service or checked by you.
Your terms and conditions are where you manage your risk. What’s more risky is your client not making a will and you not preparing your business to cater for the increasing buying preferences of millennials.
“I’m missing out on professional advice revenue”
An online will service will help capture new clients who wouldn’t normally visit a lawyer. You then have the opportunity to build an ongoing relationship and cross-sell services throughout their lives as circumstances change.
You determine what you charge and so can offer a more expensive, checked service if you wish. Your time is then spent on more complex, more lucrative opportunities, on business development, on client engagement – all of which will positively impact revenues.
So is an online will the future or is it too risky? You won’t be surprised that we think it’s the future.
Arguably, there is more risk in not having an online capability as modern consumers may be dissuaded from making a will in the traditional way.
And if you don’t offer it – someone else will. With many online will providers disrupting the marketplace with their offerings, the increasing demand is proven – so can you afford not to follow suit?