When meeting with a client to take instructions for a Will, there are some key considerations you should be making. This doesn’t matter whether you are taking instructions in person, by telephone or by other remote methods such as video call.
First and foremost you must carry out an assessment of the client’s capacity to satisfy yourself that they have the requisite capacity to give you valid instructions. It is also important that no matter your method of instruction taking you are asking the right questions to gather all of the necessary facts to enable you to provide the best and most accurate advice.
When taking instructions for a Will you should try to conduct all, or at least part, of the meeting with the client alone, preferably in the absence of any potential beneficiaries. This is to avoid any later suggestion of undue influence and to satisfy yourself that no pressure is being exercised over the testator to influence them into making a Will they do not wish to make, or to benefit a certain individual. Obviously if you are meeting a client in person or are conducting an interview via video call this will be easier to achieve. If you are taking instructions by telephone you should ask for details of any other person who is present in the room with the client and confirm their reasons for being there. You should record this information in your instruction form, and it is advisable that there is a section of the form that the client can sign to confirm the details of who was in the room at the time are accurate.
You should establish whether the client has made any previous Wills, if you are able to obtain a copy to read through this will help understand the current situation. Discuss the client’s reasons for any changes from their previous Will.
However you are taking the instructions you should ask the client to provide you with an outline of their estate and their assets and how they are owned. This will allow you to provide specific advice that is relevant to their estate, for example advice in regards to inheritance tax, severing their tenancy or advice in relation to dealing with any business assets. It will also allow you to establish whether the client knows what it is they are gifting thus assisting with your capacity assessment.
Remote instructions carry the same requirements for ID so do ensure your client is able to provide copy ID documents for you to certify. Signed Terms of Business and Client Declarations will continue to be required and you may wish to consider sending these documents via email for electronic signature or a scanned signature, both of which are acceptable for instruction forms. Do ensure you note within your instruction that the client requirements have been recorded via telephone or video call for future reference.
Taking instructions via telephone or video call can be an efficient method as it allows you to take instructions from clients who are unable to travel to your office due to disability, distance or time constraints, and who you are unable to meet with for any reason.
No matter how you are taking the instructions, it is important that you have appropriate processes in place to confirm that the client is who they say they are, that they do not lack capacity and they are not subject to any undue influence.
Source: The Society of Will Writers