Running a Wills and probate business in the current market is a fine balancing act. The introduction and rising popularity of online wills and DIY Will practices have made will writing both a price-based competitive, and maybe now even a digital-ready marketplace.
However, law firms have been long prepared for this – particularly when considering the true value of their Wills business: the potential probate work it promises.
Some firms have gone so far as to consider will writing services a ‘loss-leader’, particularly in areas where they do not have a strong Wills database or have an small and growing private client department, so as to build up brand recognition in the region and also to lead to cross-sell opportunities both private (many Wills are written after or in preparation for a major life event such as a house move or a change in personal circumstances) and commercial.
Probate business can at times be worth tenfold, twentyfold [and so on] compared to that of the initial Will written, and as such it is imperative that Wills solicitors and private client departments do what they can to ensure that when a client of theirs passes, they are the ones who are instructed to assist with probate.
With that said, what steps can Wills and probate solicitors take to establish themselves as the choice to handle the probate affairs when a client passes? We list a few for consideration here:
1. Offer Will storage
The first thing that the family are going to need to do after registering the death is obtain the Will. By offering to hold the Will in your safe storage, you can guarantee an opportunity to signpost yourselves as a probate provider and someone who can assist the family.
Be sure to provide a receipt, letter or certificate that outlines that the Will is being held with yourselves and encourage your client to add this to their life folder and notify their next of kin.
2. Be named as the executor of the Will
Many people do continue to opt to have their solicitor be named as the executor of their Will. The advantages to the testator being that an experienced probate solicitor will handle their affairs as they requested upon their passing, while the advantage for the named solicitor is that they would then proceed with administration of the estate where appropriate.
3. Encourage the testator to speak to their family about the Will
According to a study we at The National Will Register conducted, only around a third of UK adults have spoken to their children about their Will and what to do after their death. What this means is that 2 in 3 UK adults haven’t done so.
What this leads to, and is unfortunately often seen, is confusion when it comes to next steps and where to find the Will, if one was even made. In terms of what this means for you is the potential of a Will being untraced and forgotten about.
By encouraging your clients to speak to their family about the Will, you increase the chances that the Will is found and they speak to you, likely before anyone else.
4. Register the Will with The National Will Register
The National Will Register is the UK’s provider of Will registration and Will search, used by the legal profession, Will writers, PI insurers, government agencies, charities, and the public – and with over 10 million Wills in the system, The National Will Register now holds the location of approximately half of all Wills in the UK.
Registering your Will bank with The National Will Register will allow for you to tag the location of your clients’ Wills to your office. So, when a Will is searched for, which we encourage that everyone do whether or not a Will is known, as it may not be the most up-to-date Will, you are given the details of the searcher so you can determine if they can be privy to information about the Will, and then engage appropriately. This places your firm in direct discussion with the executor and/or any beneficiaries, and therefore provides a good opportunity to secure the probate work.