The IPW’s Sue Ioannou Shares Her Thoughts On The Current Crisis

A previous, unedited version of this interview appeared on this publication on the 19th June 2020 with a number of errors. Today’s Wills & Probate would like to apologise to Sue Ioannou and The Institute of Professional Willwriters for this mistake. The correct version appears below.

 

With the wills and probate community under the spotlight at the moment Today’s Wills & Probate are delighted to have had the opportunity to speak with Sue Ioannou, a longstanding member of the Institute of Professional Willwriters council.

As Chair for 2020 and Head of Training, Sue has been heavily involved in the IPW’s plans for 2020 and their response to the Covid-19 crisis.

 

What is the experience of the IPW over the last couple of months? What do you see is happening in the sector currently?

One of the biggest things we’ve seen is an increase in membership enquiries over the last couple of months. Evidence suggests that i there seems to be a lot of people moving into the profession following redundancy or furlough, and a number who were doing it on a part time basis who have moved to doing it more full time.

It could be that people realise there is an opportunity in the sector now.

Certainly, from the training point of view we’re seeing an uplift in course attendees.

 

What are the IPW doing for members

We’d started a plan in January to start offering our training online; obviously we’ve accelerated that now so all our CPD accredited training is available online, including our 3-day classroom training.

We feel that we have been quick to adapt to the circumstances and demonstrate our value to members, especially new people coming on board.

One of the biggest pluses to joining the IPW is our Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) accreditation which shows our commitment to providing excellent customer service through our training and exam structure. It not only protects our members but also instils confidence in our membership’s clients.

We also have partnership agreements with third parties, offering services to our clients that our members may not be qualified to provide e.g. funeral plans, professional indemnity insurance and extensive CPD accredited training throughout the year to support the membership.

 

What are members looking for guidance on right now?

As soon as the Coronavirus crisis started we began to get enquiries from members about how to conduct their business safely.

We issued guidance on the 19th March, just prior to lockdown, which included best practice around meetings and social distancing, like not shaking hands and maintaining distance, and provided a risk assessment to help members determine how safe it is to go out to clients.

Once lockdown kicked in it became more about the practicalities of how to work. Some members were looking to suspend their business as they felt it would not be possible to work in the current climate howeverour guidance has remained the same since March; it is fine to conduct appointments via telephone and video calling but despite our calls to the Ministry of Justice to relax the rules to allow Wills to be signed via video conferencing, this can not yet be achieved..

We’ve heard of all sort of ways to get wills signed but our recommendation is to do it through the window. The will is sent out by post; either the Willwriter attends or neighbours are invited to witness the signing through the window before the will is put into an envelope, put on the doorstep and the Willwriter or neighbours then collect it, return to the window to sign it themselves.

 

What is the IPW doing to lobby for change

We have been in touch with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) since April to ascertain  why English law remains unchanged while Scottish law has been updated. Since then Jersey have relaxed their laws as have New Zealand.

As you might expect they remain very tight lipped despite our specific request to  provide details about what methodologies might be under consideration.

Clearly there are examples of people conducting signing via video conferencing but our advice is that this is not legal and so should not be done.

We are exploring the precedents around the testator and the witnesses only needing to be in the “visual presence” of each other  which may make video witnessing possible but right now the MoJ  have not been forthcoming with any further information as to why they are not relaxing the rules in England and Wales.

 

Tell us about what is happening at the IPW

The IPW has undergone a big change with wholesale change on the council. We really want to get focused on the membership and act in our member’s best interests.

Since the start of the year we’ve put a business plan in place, and sent out a member survey; we want to reassure the membership that we want their views and act in their best interests.

We had a fantastic response to the survey which has been really pleasing; we really feel as though we’re connected to the membership and they with their leadership team.

One of the main things we want to do is promote is our connection to CTSI and lobby government regarding regulation for the willwriting community. Last week  a report was published which calls for Will Writing to be regulated and the IPW intend to be fully involved with the consultation process that is likely to follow

Internally we want to continue to expand our training programme and we’re about to launch a new qualification which is Ofqual regulated and will be offered via distance learning as well as the traditional classroom methods.

We’ll be sharing the results of the survey with members and implement the recommendations therein.

And finally we were disappointed to cancel the conference this year but we’ll be back bigger and better next year.

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