Estate Planning Practitioners: The importance of specialist tools and software

Written by WillSuite on 26th April 2024

Talk of wills and probate departments can conjure up a picture of a dusty practice in a back corner; a bit slow and a bit old fashioned. This is unfair and untrue. In reality, this area of legal practice probably moves quicker than any other area of law, because it has to respond to how we are living our lives today. Gone are the days when estate planning involved listing paper assets and drafting a once-only will in a standard format, saved in a will book, where spouses left a property and some cash to each other and their children. 

As practitioners in this area know, a growing proportion of clients and their descendants are part of diverse and dynamic blended families, where partner and gender change are a part of life. They are banking with statement free online banks such as Monzo and Starling, buying NFTs with cryptocurrency and living on social media. Interesting and insightful things are happening in this space, however there are many challenges for practitioners. The system is dealing with acts of law that haven’t changed in over 150 years, and the 1837 Wills Act doesn’t have a section on digital assets or cryptocurrency

When clients now ask for a will to be drawn up, practitioners need to be prepared to potentially deal with the kinds of assets that were unheard of in 1837. There may be cryptocurrency, NFTs, digital banking, or a range of overseas assets. There will be online bank accounts, social media accounts, and probably property. The client might be in a blended family or in a minority relationship. These are things that lifetime planning practitioners know they must be able to manage. Estate planning is changing from day to day as society changes, and as technology advances, practitioners need access to the latest specialist tools and best practice software to deliver effective estate management services and produce fit for purpose wills.

Individuals and practitioners face key challenges in estate management.

When it comes to effective estate management, there are two key factors for legal professionals to consider: successfully managing the changing nature of society and relationships to produce effective lifetime planning, and the provision of software to assist with the planning and management of today’s complex digital estates. Attitudes towards estate planning changed because of COVID-19. During the pandemic, healthy young people were having to consider that they may not live as long as they may have anticipated, which brought this area of law into sharp focus. 

The current generation has a very different asset portfolio than previous generations. Going back 20 years, the standard assets of a will would likely be a property and some savings, which would invariably be passed down from parents to children. Today, digital assets of both financial and sentimental value are the norm. Items of sentimental value such as photos were once bequeathed in albums to children. 

However, not many of us keep photo albums today, preferring to store our photos digitally in the cloud. So how are these bequeathed and passed down? Who officially owns these digital assets? What happens to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram accounts when the account holder is deceased? Looking at digital assets of financial value, there are ways of holding money that weren’t available 20 years ago such as betting accounts and PayPal accounts that may or may not contain balances. Challenger banks such as Starling and Monzo provide completely online bank accounts. Unless you have a card or access to the app, you may not know that these accounts exist as there are no bank statements or printed records of ownership. These are the digital assets that are easier to manage. What about more complex digital assets, such as NFTs and cryptocurrency, which are designed to be non-traceable – how are these passed down? The rule that we all know about password protection is to never write down your password. 

So how do you bequeath cryptocurrency? The other major factor to consider is how relationships in society have changed. We can marry across religions and cultures more easily than before, and the world is a smaller place. Advising people and couples regardless of relationship make up should be the norm and people don’t get married as much as they used to. 

Blended families are common, including children and family members from previous relationships, making standard intestacy law inadequate as a baseline. Gender neutral estate planning is an important consideration. If money has been left to a granddaughter or grandson and that person decides to change gender, would that then invalidate the gift? We don’t know and there will be test cases, but this is something to consider. Changes in the way that society is made up and how people live their lives will impact the work of legal practitioners more frequently going forwards.

Items to consider when drafting documents

Take time to get more information and understand a client’s assets. It can be quite hard to get this information from clients. It wasn’t that long ago that talking about death and money was a complete taboo, although younger generations may be more open. If people understand why the information is needed, they are likely to be more forthcoming. It is essential to fully understand the assets held to be able to help manage and protect them across a lifetime.

When drafting wills, using specialist software that facilitates regular updates will make things easier for you. There has been a spike in the number of disputed wills, with experts speculating as to the reason* – perhaps linked to the fact that most estates are worth that bit more. A document trail and regular updates will help to clarify wishes and intentions and avoid disputes.

Having a case management system where all your documents are stored together with a time and date stamp is key. If anyone disputes a will you have drafted, you will have your attendance notes, the drafted will, and, with the right software, a commentary and details of all the questions asked and answers given – all time and date stamped. You can prove that you adhered to the necessary case law and that you’ve done everything you needed to. Without this comprehensive audit trail it can be hard to go back and substantiate why the will was drafted in a certain way.

Reach out to your client on a regular basis to make sure they are updating their will as needed. If there have been several versions and the final will is disputed, it’s possible to see trends in previous versions which will help establish the facts and confirm the validity of clauses and the intention of the deceased.

It is a good idea to suggest the writing of a letter of wishes to go alongside the will. If a client has decided to make unusual gifts or to leave somebody out of the will, for example, then a letter of wishes, although not legally binding, will help to clarify the intentions of the deceased.

Specialist tools for specialist practitioners

Using multiple applications across your business can be difficult. Separate applications to draft documents and a different one to keep and save documents, a different one again to manage emails and a further one to manage your diary is at best inefficient. Data must be duplicated multiple times, and information is saved across multiple platforms. It can be incredibly difficult to accurately report on your business and growing your business either though acquiring more clients or increasing the size of your team can be hampered by inefficient working practices.  

Practitioners ideally need a central platform with access to all case files and all correspondence in one place.  Specialist applications can make a major difference to any business and estates management is no different.

With integrated specialist will and LPA drafting tools plus a full estate administration package practitioners can handle the whole client lifecycle through a single platform.  Full integration with Microsoft 365 so that emails can be sent and received and automatically saved into the system.  A comprehensive document library providing a vast array of documents, precedents and forms, all of which are produced in Microsoft Word and automatically saved back to your system.  Integrated with Xero for accounting and with a compliant document register and integration with Microsoft Teams for managing appointments are just a few of the features afforded by LEAP Estates.  

Created in partnership with WillSuite, LEAP Estates occupies a unique position in the legal software market, providing specialist software for probate solicitors and estate planners. You can follow the LEAP Estates company page on LinkedIn or visit to learn more about LEAP Estates. You can also request a demonstration at