Taking Instruction In The Current Environment

Face to Face meetings with clients undoubtedly have an increased risk (to health) and may soon be impossible.

It is important therefore to remain as compliant as possible and adopt a risk based approach to instruction taking specific to the circumstances.

  • Risks need to be managed through due process:
  • Clients that you have met before
  • Clients introduced to you by a registered individual
  • Clients introduced to you for the first time via a “lead generation service”
  • “Insignificant” departures from previous Wills
  • Significant or unusual requests/departures

Refusing to take a client’s instructions that you otherwise would have taken is not an option!

There can be no doubt that we are currently and are likely to remain in unprecedented times.

What STEP have said

Wills: STEP recommendation on Will signing

In light of the current concerns around Coronavirus, members should consider giving clients, particularly those that are vulnerable, the option of a meeting via telephone or video-conferencing. However, there is currently no confirmation that e-signatures or video-witnessing will be accepted. Practitioners are therefore in a difficult position as it may not be possible to comply with the government’s guidance to reduce social contact while also arranging for Wills to be validly signed. STEP’s recommendation is that the government’s guidance should be every practitioners starting point. In practice this may mean sending Wills to clients and asking them to make arrangements for suitable witnesses to visit them whilst maintaining distance so far as is possible. However, it will be for each practitioner to make a decision on the merits of the particular case and the relative risks to both client and the practitioner.

STEP will writing code:

Records

  • A practitioner must take adequate notes and check accurate instruction from the client
  • A practitioner must be able to provide a record of the details taken in the instruction
  • The client must be able to seek explanations of the planning prior to execution of the will
  • Where other factors make this impossible a greater emphasis is placed on the practitioner to provide explanations
  • One of the biggest problems you will face in the current climate is how to have Wills signed when clients do not want you to visit.

Using Countrywide Legacy’s Will & Legal document drafting software can help.

The STEP Will Writing Code states:

The Law of Wills (iii)
• Record the advice given to clients
• Take all practicable steps to ascertain
that the client has testamentary capacity and is acting free from coercion or undue influence.

• Supervise the execution of Will
(unless the client does not require this)

• The completeness of these records should assist the practitioner to comply in a timely manner with any information requests in the
event of dispute….

In accordance with 9(iii)f. of the Step Will Writing Code you have to supervise the execution of the Will, unless the client having first been advised of the risks, does not require this.

Where face to face meetings are generally impossible, it is in the interest of advisors and clients to look for a compliant way in which to reduce risk.

The Countrywide risk reduction trilogy.

As you may be aware the Countrywide Legacy Software produces a Client Disclaimer, Will Clarity and Execution Statement. These 3 documents were designed initially for taking instructions face to face. Currently we have adapted our software so it can be used when either posting or emailing documents to the client for signature.

The roles of the following processes invoked by the Legacy software system are now even more important than ever:

  • The Disclaimer
  • The Will Clarity Statement (Paperless option in two weeks)
  • The Execution Statement
  • The Order Summary
  • The Will Commentary
  • Paperless Package

What the Law Society have to say

We have been informed that the Law Society are currently in talks with the Ministry of Justice to urgently bring forth new legislation for the requirements of witnessing Wills and speeding up the registration of Lasting Powers of Attorney.

Once these changes are in place, we believe that this will be a massive step forward, and will continue to positively affect the industry for generations.

We are ready for the changes which will inevitably come

Here at Countrywide Tax & trust Corporation Ltd we have been overwhelmed with
with requests from professionals asking how the Countrywide Legacy software reduces risk for both the firm and the Advisor, whilst remaining compliant during these circumstances.

Using Countrywide Legacy software already provides significant protection for you and your clients wishes and allows for the electronic signing of documents other than Wills, trusts and Lasting Powers of Attorney and so when these changes in legislation do come our Software is ready and waiting.

This article was submitted to be published by Countrywide Legacy as part of their advertising agreement with Today’s Wills and Probate. The views expressed in this article are those of the submitter and not those of Today’s Wills and Probate.

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