Discerning buyers know you get what you pay for. But lawyers are not great at communicating the value provided by their services. We prefer the end results to speak for themselves.
There is a flaw in this somewhat arrogant approach, however. Particularly when it comes to legal services around planning for our personal assets. Nobody gets to find out how their will was interpreted or whether their powers of attorney were executed according to their intentions. As far as we know, the buyer remains forever unaware!
If you have ever been the executor of a will or perhaps the recipient you will, however, appreciate the benefits of a well-crafted legal document. A will produced from an off-the-shelf kit will not compare.
Taking wills as an example. We’d like to take you on a virtual tour to demonstrate the value that goes into creating them.
Our value chain – wills
- The lawyer opening a new file applies a “workflow” to ensure nothing gets overlooked. Applying the workflow is easy but initial set up takes on average a few hours and is constantly evolving.
- Our experience shows clients only tell us what they think is relevant. We would be remiss therefore if we were to simply take instructions. We don’t know what we don’t know. So prompting clients to include alternative instructions will ensure the will is appropriate immediately and as things change going forward. This is an important part of the process.
- We check for legal compliance under the Wills Act, things like meeting your moral obligations (to provide for children) or any testamentary promises you may have made.
- We consider how the will fits in with other asset planning documents already in place.
For example, assets owned by a trust are not dealt with under your will. Separate documentation needs to be put in place to ensure trust assets reach the intended beneficiaries (we can help with that too). However, we can include clauses in your will to ensure the correct people are put in place to manage your trust affairs.
Another example is if you are a company shareholder leaving all your assets to a certain person in your will. Inheriting the company shares could mean your beneficiary would obtain the power to appoint and remove directors or derive other benefits from the company. That might not be appropriate, depending on the structure of the business and other people involved.
- The actual drafting is often the easiest part. We select the parts of the precedent that will stay and remove those that do not apply. We then add any other clauses that are particular to you and your circumstances. In order to do this, our team is constantly refreshing its knowledge of current legislation and case law to make sure the precedent is as good as it can be*.
- We take time to carefully explain to clients the quite specific wording that wills have. It’s important to ensure your wishes are accurately reflected.
- Wills also need to be signed in a specific manner. If a will signing is not completed correctly, it can be rejected by the court. Such rejections are to be avoided as they can incur significant extra cost and time delays for the estate at a very stressful time.
- Once signed, the will is filed. Not just physically, the will is scanned and saved to the cloud (to avoid the Christchurch Earthquakes scenario of wills being destroyed). It is also saved to the file to make sure it can be easily found when required. The process for storing wills is quite specific. Any marks on which the court could determine another document was attached to the will, will cause the will to be rejected at the probate stage. This includes marks left by paperclips, removed staples etc.
- When we first open a file (either for a new client or an estate), we are required to comply with the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act 2009 (AML/CFT Act). Wills are a bit of an anomaly as they do not fall into any of the categories that are captured under the Act. Instead, the information is captured when we do the estate work. Our practice manager, Rachael Stevenson, has put many hours into developing processes to ensure we meet our obligations here. Clients simply provide a photo ID and proof of your residential address but we complete an extensive background process to properly record the information.
What you get
You usually pay around $500 for a will but may leave our offices empty-handed. We usually email the final document. However, you will leave this world with your legacy intact. Your will could have the power to change lives, sometimes they change whole communities. Creating a will to help you leave your mark and take care of those who remain behind, is a huge responsibility. Drafting any legal document is, for us, an artisan process we approach with the skills and tradesmanship of a master craftsman. It is our honour and privilege to work with clients who appreciate the value of our services.
*a precedent can never be a one size fits all.
By Angela Mills