“It’s about working with the individual” – SWW Conference 2017 summary

Today’s Wills & Probate attended the Society of Will Writers’ (SWW) Conference for the 3rd year running.

Once again at the Abbey Hotel in Redditch, members of the SWW and other wills, probate and estate planning professionals came together for the 21st Annual Conference. Following a breakfast meeting led by Darren Leggett of Executor Solutions, SWW Director General Brian McMillan introduced the main conference talks, giving an overview of where the Society has come in the last two decades.

Highlighting the fact that Society members are not only will writers, but provide a multitude of services, Brian said, “there is nobody here who simply writes wills” before continuing to give a summary of current discussion points within the profession. These included the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) report on transparency, the likelihood of becoming a regulated sector and the theme for the day which was vulnerable clients.

Plans for the SWW outlined by Brian included the creation of podcasts, as well as own-branded funeral plans.

Having launched one year previously, the Professional Standards Board (PSB) began the day’s discussions within the main conference suite.

Here is a summary of the talks and workshops which were delivered throughout the two-day event, including some key quotes given by the speakers:

Darrell Storey, Chairman of the Professional Standards Board – PSB 10 months on

  • First Board meeting held December 2016
  • Seeking more Board members
  • Aiming to raise standards within the profession
  • “Any decision we make affects us.”
  • “It’s a marathon, not a sprint. We can help shape the future. Let’s embrace it!”

Tim Farmer, Managing Director of TSF Consultants – Mental capacity assessments

  • 10-year anniversary of the Mental Capacity Act (MCA)
  • Current test relates to Banks v Goodfellow, but this is likely to change in the next few years
  • “It’s about working with the individual.”
  • Visual techniques used to explain estate planning to clients
  • Two stages for mental capacity assessment
  • For those who are unable to verbally communicate, use techniques which allow for yes/no answers
  • Always give client worst case scenarios and highlight risks of doing nothing
  • Differences between joint and several Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs)
  • Vulnerability is not about age, there are many forms including physical and emotional
  • Note taking must be comprehensive and reflect criteria of relevant case law
  • “Videos are a great tool if you can take them. People behave differently if they know they’re being filmed. We have to use them in the right way.”

Craig Ward, Solicitor at Edward Young Solicitors – Enabling vulnerable clients to access your service

  • The Legal Services Board (LSB) report from this year highlights many consumers are unable to access legal services
  • Clients like information in writing, to both explain and inform
  • Consider hidden disabilities to tailor service delivery
  • “Where does the client actually want to meet me?”
  • Different types of vulnerable client include disabled and those who have undue influence
  • Encourages all professionals to have an abuse policy in place
  • Consumers express a desire to have pre-meeting information to explain what will happen

Caroline Bielanska, Independent Legal Consultant – What’s happening in social care

  • “There isn’t enough money in the kitty to meet people’s eligible needs.”
  • 30% of care homes don’t have a permanent manager
  • Current delays in getting assessed for care
  • R (D & SA) v Brent Council [2015] EWHC
  • Advocates must be provided when the person lacks mental capacity or if there are communication problems, for care assessments
  • R (SG) v London Borough of Haringey [2015] EWHC 2579
  • Care needs should be considered over a period of time
  • Will there be a significant impact on the person’s life if this care need isn’t met?
  • Clarke, R (on the application of) v London Borough of Sutton [2015] EWHC 1081 (Admin)
  • Detailed case law updates

Tim Harrison, Simrun Garcha and Munazza Hollingsworth of Laytons LLP – Residence Nil Rate Band (RNRB)

  • Purpose of the RNRB is to increase tax threshold for spouses
  • Basic overview of the criteria
  • Affects those with direct descendants who have an estate (with main residence) above £350,000
  • Breakdown of legal jargon including closely inherited, bunching and qualifying residential interest
  • Summary of the laws within the Inheritance Tax Act
  • Implications if your client has downsized
  • Limited scope of application to will trusts and doesn’t apply to discretionary trusts
  • Applying the RNRB to lifetime gifts

Adam Johnson, Director at New Forest Wealth Management – Long term care

  • Longevity statistics including 85+ being the fastest growing segment in UK
  • Summary of domiciliary, residential and nursing care
  • Assessment of long term care funding includes deciding who will pay – looking at income and capital
  • Income includes any pensions, earnings and drawdown pensions
  • Income does not include some state benefits, charitable/voluntary payments or insurance payments
  • Capital assessment income limits and variations between England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales
  • What isn’t included as capital, including the home if certain conditions are met
  • It is harder to challenge a will than a trust

Sunil Teeluck, Senior Counsel at the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) – OPG 10 years on

  • Record number of application for LPAs
  • OPG are pushing for digital signatures, but want to make sure the right safeguards are in place
  • Priorities of OPG include improving digital tools and developing their first people strategy
  • Top tips for completing LPA forms, including being clear on applications and signing/dating forms correctly

Chris Erwood of Erwood & Associates – RNRB practical case studies

  • Doesn’t see the RNRB working long-term due to associated issues
  • Could change if a new government is elected
  • Examples of the application of the RNRB in various circumstances, with breakdown of observations, inheritance tax calculations and estate divisions
  • Isn’t applied to the house, applies only to persons who qualify

We are always looking to cover topics you find useful and interesting. If you would like us to cover any of the above in more detail, please contact our Content & Communications Manager at [email protected].

Both members and non-members of the SWW are welcome to attend the Annual Conference. To register interest in the Society of Will Writers’ Conference 2018, please contact Tom Stansfield at [email protected].

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