As a regular contributor to the Christchurch law society magazine, one of our Directors, Andrew Nuttall, has recently written a thoughtful article about wills.
Although aimed primarily at the legal profession, there is some great information here for all of us on a topic that, although none of us really want to think about it, is vitally important for us and those we will leave behind.
Over the last 30 years I have met with many prospective clients who do not have an up-to-date will. How much family tension have you seen that could have been avoided if clients had taken more care with their estate planning?
We have all come across people who need a will but are reluctant to contemplate their demise. We are all, however, going to need a will and having a relevant one makes it easier on those left behind. The inability to admit that their death will occur cannot be the only reason many are reluctant to have an up-to-date will. It has to be something more than that.
Historically, some lawyers have often given wills away for nothing – a mistake in my opinion by the way. Has this created a reluctance to pay for what is a valuable service? Why is it that people fail to address their estate planning appropriately?
» Have you subconsciously determined the objections to paying for a will are too pronounced to justify spending sufficient time with your clients to help them think carefully about their estate planning?
» Are your clients failing to recognise the value and peace of mind they will gain by having well-drafted wills and estate plans?
» Are you not recognising or underestimating the value and peace of mind you provide your clients by encouraging them to think about their estate planning?
» Has the importance of having an up-to-date and well-drafted will been under-mined by offers of “free” wills?
Wills are one of our most important documents, we are all going to need one.
Below is a list of, what I hope are, helpful suggestions that I have picked up over the years from estate planning lawyers:
» Have your client list their assets and liabilities, family members and any friends or organisations they might want to recognise – this may help them realise quite why they do need a will.
» Ask your client the following question. “If you had passed away yesterday what would you want to see happen to your assets tomorrow?” There is nothing like confronting your own mortality to get us thinking.
» Ask your client who would be the best people to be responsible and ensure their assets ended up in the right hands and their wishes are implemented? The prospect of their incompetent uncle making decisions can create some intent.
» Do not post out a draft will and wait for it to be signed and returned. Many people have neither the ability nor inclination to read a legal document – it ends up sitting on the kitchen bench, unsigned. Why not, at the conclusion of your initial meeting, make a time to meet again – a call to action and a commitment to do something all in one?
» If your client is reluctant to sign the newly-drafted will, urge them to do so as it is likely to be better than their existing, out of date, will or the non-existent one.