For experienced will writing – it’s more than just form completion

Can I make a will online? After the past few months this has become a very relevant question. Our Private Wealth & Inheritance team have kept working throughout lockdown during which time we made hundreds of Wills – so the answer is very firmly yes. But we have drawn a number of conclusions from our experience.

During lockdown we used two different models to take instructions.

A simple online will form

Firstly, we offered a purely online service where we asked clients to complete an online will form and submit this to us. This was always intended as a fixed price basic service for people whose circumstances were straightforward and required no special advice.

This service operated reasonably well, yet we did find that far too many people who tried to use had more complex affairs than they originally thought, which required a more bespoke approach.

A will form and video call

Secondly, we offered a modified version of our usual service when we asked clients to complete a comprehensive questionnaire and then to have a meeting usually conducted by a video or audio link. The video meeting was to replace the more usual face to face meetings that we hold. This sort of service was always intended to be more personal than the purely online service and is suitable for those whose might want tax advice or whose circumstances were not entirely straightforward.

You would assume that this new method of remote working and video conferences would save time and reduce costs both for us and for our clients. To our surprise this was not the case and instead we found that the time engaged and the consequent costs actually became greater. There seems to be something about the body language of face to face meetings which cannot be replicated by phone or video link. We often found ourselves repeatedly having to raise new questions and/or redrafting Wills as different nuances that had been missed in the over video link came to the fore.

Contrary to what many seem to think the will making process, taking instructions and writing Wills is not just a simple case of ticking boxes and tinkering with standard templates. The experienced Will writer does not just rely on replies to standard questionnaires, but also on instincts which will often lead to unexpected lines of enquiry, and may result in Wills which achieve what the client wants, but achieves it in ways that neither the client nor the Will writer expected. In theory is it possible to for a questionnaire or an online fact find to ensure that no stone is left unturned, but trying to prepare the necessary questionnaire, let alone expect most clients to have the patience to complete it, is nigh on impossible. This means that at the end of the day it is more often than not down to the skill and experience of a Will writer to draw out the required information, and sadly it seems that at present for one reason or another trying to do this remotely, even with the aid of modern technology does not seem to work anywhere near as well as the old fashioned face to face meeting.

Drafting a will

Will drafting is not a formulaic science, it is a highly skilled and time-consuming task, trying to either buy or sell Wills on price is a dangerous and often counter productive game.

Herrington Carmichael continues to work with the demands of our clients and use modern technology to assist us to take instructions, prepare wills and where possible reduce costs, but at the end of the day it is likely that we will continue to recommend the use of old fashioned face to face meetings if possible.

For more information on Will drafting and an indication of costs please speak to a member of our Private Wealth Team.

This reflects the law at the date of publication and is written as a general guide. It does not contain definitive legal advice, which should be sought as appropriate in relation to a particular matter. 

Graeme Black
Partner, Private Wealth & Inheritance
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This reflects the law and market position at the date of publication and is written as a general guide. It does not contain definitive legal advice, which should be sought in relation to a specific matter.

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