Using Technology To Improve Efficiency And Expertise In Estate Planning

When we think back to Y2K and the irrational fears concerning the millennium bug, even the most technologically minded individuals would have struggled to predict the rapid journey over the past nineteen years.

Social media has exploded and become a fundamental tool connecting businesses, individuals and communities; the internet has grown and cloud storage offers solutions that would never have been considered achievable at the turn of the century and software solutions using AI have created a more consistent product to help improve efficiency for many businesses.

Legal technology is starting to become a major consideration for many people in Wills and Estate Planning, acting as a driving force for increased efficiency and profitability.

Having pioneered a number of technologies widely used in the sector, Dave Newick, Managing Director, UK has taken the time to discuss how the role of technology has developed and how it may evolve in the future.

How was technology used by Will writers and estate planners ten years ago?

For those using technology, they were probably using server or desktop based systems running on Windows 7. The functionality of those systems would have been limited by the computers power and the development languages the application was written in.

A digital presence would have been restricted to a website maybe with Google adwords running and potentially with some form of social media presence for the early adopters.

Elsewhere cell phones would have been relatively stupid by comparison to modern day smart phones and you wouldn’t have had a ‘woman in the corner’ of your home telling you to wear a cardigan because it was cold that day.

How is technology being used in the sector at the moment?

There is a growing awareness of the importance of technology to the sector as it confronts the opportunities and risks posed by using technology to drive business efficiency and the subsequent price and profitability impacts that efficiency brings.

Some advanced organisations are using technology to do the low-level things they don’t want to do or which it makes no economic sense for them to be doing.

Drafting documentation manually is a good example. Most smart operators have realised the shortcomings of word-based templates and/or dragging and dropping clauses into documents. If its anything more than a simple letter being produced, spending time copying, pasting, editing, formatting and proof reading just doesn’t make sense when better solutions exist.

Most organisations are now using software-as-a-service platforms where you pay a subscription to use the software based in the cloud rather than on a desktop. This means companies don’t need to invest and maintain servers, upgrade systems and maintain data and security to the same degree.

What impact is technology having on the sector?

I think we are at the outset of significant disruption driven by technology in the sector as those businesses who find efficiencies look to either invest in growth related activities by banking cost savings, or pass on savings to customers and win market share through lower prices.

Online Wills are starting to have an impact and will continue to do so as the cost of acquisition for a customer is low and the service is in line with the demands of the millennial generation.

Why should will writers and estate planners be embracing technology and how will it improve their business?

In a nutshell, technology enables services to be delivered quicker, efficiently and cost effectively.  To retain a competitive edge in the marketplace a business needs to look at technology to improve services and reduce overheads.

The Will writing and estate planning industry deals with the broadest range of clients in terms of age, wealth, family circumstances, and priorities.

Consumer buying habits and expectations have changed enormously over the past few years.  Clients have differing needs and expectations around the service they require and the delivery of that service.

Technology enables a business to provide its services whatever the client’s needs and requirements, however the client wants delivery of the service and at a price the client is prepared to pay.

The other reason is that it makes your life easier. You get more time back to spend on things that you want to do and you can work from where you want to work. You can focus on tasks that matter when you are working. The consistency of customer outcomes you are able to provide and therefore the knock-on effect to your business brand is greater and your risk is lowered.

What are the potential risks to Wills and Estate Planning businesses and their clients in failing to adopt new technologies?

The legal services market generally has become a buyers market and cost is now more of an issue than it ever was.  Clients want convenience which generally means digital services, and every generation wants more value.

The risk of not adopting is in being negatively impacted because you will be competing with firms who are more efficient. That typically is not a revolutionary activity, it tends to creep up organically and you may find it harder and harder to win business or be profitable, starting a business decline.

How do you think technology will develop in the future and what role will it play in Wills and Estate Planning services?

That’s a big question. It’s a difficult thing to predict the future, but smart contracts based on blockchain technology will have a part to play potentially aligned with artificial intelligence bots. Online Wills will become an essential offering to lower the overall cost of acquisition and to service client demands for convenience.

The industry will see change impacting Law firms and Will writers. With higher costs bases and cultural landscapes that do not allow agile decision making, Law Firms may feel the most pressure. Will writers will not be immune as typically the industry is defined by either very large operators who have problems managing and leveraging volume efficiently, or very small operators who are reluctant to invest in their businesses.

Technology is developing at a faster rate than ever before.  As clients become more sophisticated their demands are increasing – what they want, when they want it and how much they will pay.

The challenge for the Will writing and estate planning industry is to adopt technology that meets these demands but also ensures that the client receives best advice.

Technology will inform, guide and empower clients to achieve their needs.  The challenge for the Will and Estate Planning industry is to be part of this delivery by adopting the technology and through the technology giving the client the opportunity to engage with the business on a personal level.

With the ability to integrate solutions, businesses will increasingly be able to adopt best of breed technologies to suit their particular operation e.g. CRM, CMS, Accounting, Document automation etc., to provide a streamlined and fully automated operation.

Electronic Wills are currently under consultation with the Law Commission and clearly, technology will play a key part in adopting any changes in legislation.

Video recordings may well become a key element within Will drafting – not in replacing a formal Will, which would require legislation, but rather in support of a client’s wishes – particularly in the case of elderly or vulnerable clients.

There is a wider conversation to be had about organizational structure and how services will change which is also an essential part of the changing landscape but technology sits at the heart of the change.

Are you concerned that failing to embrace technology could lead to your business struggling to maintain profitability? How has your business utilised technology to improve the customer experience? 


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