How Covid changed the Estate Planning industry and brought in a new need for technology

Written by Sam Jackson on 4th July 2022

As many people in the industry know all too well, Covid-19 has had a significant impact on the estate planning sector, both from a business and client perspective. Social distancing and the government imposed lockdowns sparked a huge wave of disruption to businesses, both due to financial and logistical factors. We know that everyone has had to adapt to the circumstances, but how has everything changed? How have estate planning businesses adapted to cope in such a client facing oriented industry?


Undoubtedly  the pandemic has led to huge shifts with firms, government bodies and sole practitioners modernising their practices resulting in positive changes to the previous industry standard. In this article, these changes are going to be analysed to determine their impact on the future. 


Disruption


As the country went into lockdown, restrictions were put in place affecting  the estate planning sector.


  • Clients unable to leave their home to attend appointments meant that one key form of communication between businesses and consumers halted. Leading to major problems for elderly clients and those who required family support and guidance to express their wishes.
  • Most businesses could no longer continue to work from their office. Creating situations where offices which heavily relied on the physical production of documents could no longer operate parts of their trade. 
  • Firms also saw an exponential surge in demand for Wills, LPAs and other documents linked to the death industry. This increase, in conjunction with the disruption to procedures, meant many practices struggled to meet demand.
  • Moreover, many government services experienced a spike in wait times. An example of this can be seen with The Office of the Public Guardian where waiting times for registering LPAs went from 40 days to 20 weeks.


Solution


Despite all this, the wishes of thousands of people in the UK still had to be recorded and executed, arguably now more than ever. 


Bearing this in mind, some of the vital solutions and tools that kept businesses operating during this time are assessed below in turn to demonstrate how they have become the new standards.  


Video calls and virtual meetings


One of the first solutions to be implemented was the use of online video communication software to take instructions and discuss client’s wishes, all from the comfort of their home. With softwares like Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams, businesses were able to sit their appointments online. This was a pivotal asset to continue operating, allowing many to process work in the new contactless reality. Indeed, online appointments are now standard practice for many companies in the space. The wider choice available to consumers can certainly be viewed as an improvement from  the pre-covid era. As Will writing software WillSuite offers integrations with Zoom along with automated appointment reminders and follow-up SMS/email options, it is  easy to see why many have implemented this into their customer journeys.


Automated communication and follow-ups


With the introduction of working from home affecting the work dynamics of many firms, automated communication processes have played a vital role in keeping clients in the know every step of the way. Ranging from keeping clients informed about the current status of their work to automated SMS messages that update them when documents are ready. Embracing automation has helped with potential delays in communication caused by the pandmeic. Although this is not a replacement for real personal communication it helps ensure the client is kept informed at every step of their journey. WillSuite’s pipelines are a perfect example of this in action, as they offer complete automation with the added bonus of personalising the different steps of the process to keep track of the progress of a case.


Back office admin services


During a time when many firms could not operate back office functionalities, WillSuite launched a printing, binding and posting service to cater for estate planners’ needs. This service continues to successfully operate, as many firms continue  working from home and  look to save time. This service  combined with WillSuite’s letter templates, a tool that utilises merge tags to automatically generate personalised letters to clients, the print bind and send service is yet another example of one of the ways the industry was able to adapt to the sudden changes in circumstances. Notably, with firms going back to the office, many still use these external services to save time.


E-signatures and the client portal


With a major industry-wide push towards digitalisation, it is no surprise to see a rise in demand for adoption of e-signatures and client portals for both the consumer and the professional. WillSuite has answered this demand with its client portal Connect, and the ability for users to create e-signature compatible documents within the system. In addition to this, WillSuite created the first ‘digitally signed’ LPA due to delay frustrations, which sparked discussion and a change in the OPG’s guidelines. This played one part in the current steps the OPG is making towards modernisation.


Conclusion


The course of events over the last 2 years have caused a dramatic change within the industry that has forced a sudden modernisation. WillSuite is a company set on providing solicitors, will writers and the estate planning industry with the tools they need to deal with an ever-changing market that will continue to change and modernise as time goes on.


We’ve got a lot happening in the modernisation pipeline, so make sure to follow us on our social channels to keep on top of any updates.


Thanks for reading!