By Jade Gani, Head of Wills and Probate at Aston Bond
“Loss leaders” – that’s what we frequently call them. We all know Will-drafting is a fine art that requires attention to detail and an element of finesse that consumes a great deal of our time as specialists. However, the public perception that “it’s just a piece of paper” seems to ensure that the time spent on Wills isn’t often converted into equivalent fees.
We take the hit though, knowing that if we provide a good service, we might retain other related work, such as Lasting Powers of Attorney or estate administration, for which we can charge appropriately. But does it have to be this way? Absolutely not. There is a simple, cost-effective way to reduce time spent on Will matters, without compromising the quality of service provided, which effectively equalises the cost-time ratio.
To be able to understand the full benefits of drafting software, we must appreciate the extent of work and time required in drafting Wills. Here is a rough breakdown of the average length of time spent on an average Will matter:
1. Taking initial instructions - 30 minutes to 1 hour;
2. Setting up your file and sending initial letters/terms of business – 20-30 minutes;
3. Drafting the Will and accompanying letter of advice – 45 minutes to 2 hours (depending on complexity);
4. Signing the Wills – 20 minutes; and
5. Copy Wills to Clients and storing of documents – 15 minutes
Total: 2 hours 10 minutes to 4 hours 5 minutes.
Using an average hourly rate of £185.00 (plus VAT), the real cost of preparing Wills could be between £407.00 - £758.50 (plus VAT). In reality, we usually charge a couple of hundred pounds for such Wills. This estimate does not include any time needed to amend drafts, answer further questions from clients or other administrative tasks.
The benefits of using Will drafting software
There are many magnificent companies who provide Will drafting software for the sector and most of them provide the following as standard:
1. Real-time drafting
The Will is prepared as you go along taking instructions from your clients. So, by the time you have finished your meeting, the Will is essentially ready in draft form.
2. Accompanying commentary
Whilst the Will is drafted, a commentary is also created alongside this to explain the key terms of the Will.
3. Automated reminders
The system can automate reminders to be sent to clients to chase terms of business or approval of drafts if you haven’t heard from them.
4. Fully customisable documents
You can tailor your documents and settings to ensure your brand remains consistent. For more complex matters, you might still need
to tweak or adjust the documents as required, however, you can significantly reduce your drafting time to coincide with the time spent during the initial meeting. This alone reduces the otherwise billable hours to £259.00 - £388.50 (using our previous example), narrowing the gap between the real costs and the likely fees charged.
Going even further
Some of the more advanced software also allows further time-savings with helpful additional features. These can include:
1. Client portals
This allows for clients to complete their details, asset information, beneficiary details, etc and more. This can help reduce typos/misspellings
which need correcting and can cut down the time required to gather this information in the initial meeting. Advanced portals can even integrate with your CMS and auto-generate the new matter.
2. Custom pipelines
Allowing you to automatically send reminder emails/texts to clients when it is time for them to review their Will again in a few years, as well as many other helpful functions, like enabling you to automatically update clients when you move onto the next phase, e.g. from initial letters to drafting.
3. Custom CRM fields
Allowing you to catalogue whatever data you find relevant, for example; whether Trust provisions are in the Wills; if the Clients have LPAs too; or whether they have appointed professional Executors, etc. This information can then be utilised in custom pipelines as above for marketing purposes.
These additional features further help reduce the amount of time spent on Will matters by fee earners, decreasing the amount of administration required whilst simultaneously increasing the automatic poin6ts of contact with clients on an ongoing basis. The true magic of this is that it also enhances the client experience because they feel as though they are receiving more direct contact from you, whilst also making the overall process much quicker.
If you haven’t investigated Will drafting software for your company, now is the right time. Most companies offer a free trial period and I would recommend trying more than one to find the right provider, which most suits your unique business needs.
This article is featured in the summer 2021 edition of the quarterly news digest, Entitlement. Click the image below to download your free copy of Entitlement for more informative articles and interesting case studies.