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Summary of Seminar Success

Kings Court Trust (KCT) recently hosted free CPD seminars for our colleagues in Newcastle, Crawley and Cambridgeshire areas.

Attendees enjoyed plenty of networking opportunities with fellow professionals in Will writing and financial services as well as interactive discussions from industry experts on mental capacity, best practice, changes to the intestacy rules and challenges in dealing with digital assets.

The events were very well-attended and we are looking forward to catching up with more of our partners at similar events later in the year. Please see below summary for details of discussions.

A question of capacity
Tim Farmer from TSF Consultants kicked off engaging discussions on the subject of mental capacity. A registered Mental Health Nurse by trade, Tim has over 13 years’ experience of assessing mental state and working with those who have reduced capacity. We talked about the 2 stage capacity test (Understand, Retain, Weigh-up, Communicate!), how that applies in different scenarios and the warning signs you should be looking out for when meeting clients.

What makes best practice?
Duncan Sims opened up some thought-provoking group debates about what makes best practice on a client appointment. We talked about being increasingly aware of the set-up of appointments and minimising the risk of future scrutiny.

In summary the important theme was recording in your notes the circumstances of the appointment and your considerations in those circumstances eg:

  • If a 3rd party organised the appointment, should that raise extra caution with you?
  • Should the location of the meeting raise questions? We are all naturally cautious in a hospital but care homes might also present risks particularly if the client had just been discharged from hospital (delirium and capacity issues).
  • Do you write to your client with a “terms of engagement” letter setting out what you are recommending and how they are engaging with you?
  • How do you present your subject? Is it a slide show of some kind of illustrated narrative and if so could that be criticised under scrutiny as leading the client not tailoring the conversation to their needs?
  • Do you take instruction on a first visit and is it safe to do so?
  • If the client describes you as a Solicitor do you ensure you correct them?
  • Is it time to start recording meetings rather than rely on meeting notes?

There was lots of interaction and discussion of best practice and it was clear that, whilst everyone strives towards it, often they take differing routes to get there.

What was agreed for certain is that our work today will fall under scrutiny at some unknown future date. Often, the person scrutinising the work will be a child of your client and often unaware of the dialogue and advice given. In an increasingly litigious society more and more caution will be required and it won’t just fall around the technical detail of the Will.

Exciting changes to storage proposition
We also introduced some exciting developments that are taking place. Following feedback from partners, we are changing the process for Will storage in order to make things clearer and simpler eg. details of all your Wills stored with us will soon be visible via our secure online portal, INSIGHT.

In addition, KCT is partnering with Certainty, The National Will Register to offer free Will registration to all our storing partners. Protocols, dates and timings have yet to be finalised, but this will be a good opportunity to reengage with your clients (in order to ask their permission) and we believe it will add considerable value to your proposition. We are still ironing out details but wanted to let you know good things are coming!

Changes to intestacy and family provision claims on death
Andrea Pierce, Head of Legal Services at KCT, gave us a legal update including important changes to the intestacy rules that are soon to be introduced.

The intestacy rules date back to 1925 and have not been comprehensively reviewed for more than 20 years. Where the rules (or the deceased’s Will) fail to make adequate provision for close family members or dependants, it is important that the law does not place unnecessary obstacles in the way of a valid family provision claim. Certain family members and dependants may apply to court for reasonable financial provision from the estate, under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

Upon review of these important laws, the Government has accepted some of the recommendations of the Law Commission and introduced the Inheritance and Trustees' Powers Bill into the House of Lords on 30 July 2013.  It has made its passage through Parliament and is now awaiting Royal Assent.

Key changes:

  • Where a couple are married or in a civil partnership, assets pass on intestacy to the surviving spouse in ALL cases where there are no children or other descendants
  • Anyone treated by the deceased as a child of his or her family outside the context of a marriage or civil partnership;

We don’t, as yet, know when these changes will take effect. We will confirm with partners via email, our website and INSIGHT as soon as this is announced. You can read more about the proposed changes via the Law Commission. 

Challenges posed by digital assets on death
With technology becoming more and more prevalent in our daily lives and more photos, books and music collections moving online, it begs the question – when we die, what happens to the digital trail we leave behind?

As expected, policies differ between companies but several social media websites have already established practices to address such issues.  Twitter, for example, deletes the profile of the deceased person upon notification of their death, while Facebook gives family members the option to apply to have the profile memorialised.  In the event of death of one of its users, Gmail, on the other hand, requires proof from the next of kin of an email conversation between them and the deceased in order to give access to the account.

Legislation is attempting to catch up with the quickening pace of developing technology and no best practice guidelines have been established as yet so the process of inheritance of digital assets remains a potentially complicated undertaking. Here are further resources mentioned:

  • The Digital Assets seminar that KCT took part in can be found on the CDAS website as a podcast
  • Apple security rules leave inherited ipad useless – BBC article
  • Digital services: online executor services eg. Planned Departure, tools that allows users to schedule messages for after they die eg. Dead Social, use of password managers such as Dashlane,

Finally, congratulations to the winners of our prize draw. Colin, Sarah and Eric each won a year’s licence for LPA Assist, worth £299! Well done also to runners up, Leah, Andrew and Martin, who all received a nice bottle of bubbly.

Thank you to everyone who attended. We do move around the country and our next round of seminars will be in September/October. We hope to see you there!

Jennifer Wilcox is Marketing Executive at Kings Court Trust and can be reached via partners@kctrust.co.uk.