The Steeles Law Private Client team share their thoughts on the future of advising private clients and whether the legal professional is ready for a fully digital service?
The last year and COVID-19 pandemic forced lawyers to go online, using Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype and Facetime to ‘meet’ with clients and take instructions. In turn, this means that younger clients now have more of an opportunity to instruct a lawyer for their Wills, Lasting Powers of Attorneys and Estate Planning needs. Shockingly, a report by the Law Commission suggests 40% of the adult population do not have a will.
Younger clients who perhaps did not or could not take the time to see a lawyer due to work commitments or having young children. now have the option to speak to a lawyer in a way much more convenient to them. It has also meant we can take instructions from clients, who due to the pandemic, have been shielding or are in care homes and if it were not for video calls, it would have been much more difficult for us to take instructions. All generations have embraced the benefits of video calls as the ‘new normal’ during the pandemic.
Traditionally seen as an area of law and service needed by those in later life, the pandemic has forced people to face their mortality and consider the fallout of not making a Will or LPA. For example, more and more couples are deciding not to marry and there is a huge backlog of postponed weddings meaning people are living together for longer before getting married. The consequences of an unmarried partner dying without a Will, can be disastrous.
Although working electronically has its advantages it is still vital for a Private Client lawyer to see clients at least once to assess capacity and undue influence. Our article, Coronavirus: Rise in contested probate? reviewed the rise in contested probate cases, and the suggestion that we are likely to see further increases following the Coronavirus pandemic.
It is not only private practice that is moving online, the Probate Registry, OPG and banks are becoming more electronic, meaning fee earners have more flexibility where they work. If their file is electronic, they can work from anywhere, anytime, an advantage to both the fee earner and the client.
Today’s Will and Probate publication, May 3rd, 2021, outlines the reforming of the Wills Act 1837. It has been recognised in the report the need to continually improve the electronic making of Wills which supports a fully digital process, thus encouraging more people to make a Will. It will be interesting to see the developments over the next few months and how this has changed Private Client law going forward.
If you would like to discuss anything raised in this article with our expert team of Wills, Trust and Probate Solicitors, please telephone 01603 598000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and a member of the team will be happy to contact you.
*The information provided in this article is designed to provide useful information on the subject, not to provide specific legal advice.