It is no surprise that the Covid-19 outbreak has prompted many to consider just how important it is to have their affairs in order. Whilst many law firms have had to make large scale redundancies, Will writing firms have reported a 76 per cent surge in work during this difficult time.
Covid-19 has provided a range of challenges for the legal sector, particularly in this area of expertise. Whilst everyone aged 18 or over should have a Will, often people do not think about making this important legal document later in life. Indeed, a fair proportion of April King’s client base are elderly and considered vulnerable in the context of the Covid-19 crisis. For these clients, seeing a lawyer face-to-face for advice and guidance during the pandemic might have felt like a daunting prospect.
Despite these challenges, April King has continued to serve its clients throughout the crisis, meeting clients’ needs in new ways to account for the practical challenges of the pandemic. Sitting down with the Leaders Council’s Matthew O’Neill, April King Legal’s founder and chief executive Paul King explained:
“It has created a number of challenges for us, but we have coped well and worked throughout the period. Given the nature of what we do as estate lawyers, there has been an increase in wills and probate work for our elderly clients, which has recently started to ease off more after an initial spike. People are also planning for lasting power of attorney to ensure others can take control of their affairs if they die or are incapacitated.”
The firm has seen the same increased demand for both Wills and probate services – but perhaps less predictably, it has experienced a significant increase in requests to reduce the inheritance of certain beneficiaries, or to write people out of Wills entirely.
Paul goes on to note:
“We have seen a huge increase in clients wanting to reduce the inheritance shares that some children were set to receive, and some have looked to write children out of their wills entirely. Some of our older clients have of course been frustrated and perhaps are not in the best head-space during this time, so we have had to have long conversations with them about whether removing a beneficiary from their estate in the long-term is indeed the right move. So, I think it is fair to say it has been a strange old time for us!”
The firm’s ability to continue working despite the challenges posed by the pandemic results from its willingness to embrace technology and flexibility. Many of its staff have been working from home through the crisis and appointments have been carried out through various apps such as Zoom, Skype and Facetime. Clients may be comfortable with one app and unfamiliar with another. The team has therefore been extremely flexible over conducting appointments in a way that suits each individual client, rather than adopting a single piece of technology.
“Going forward and taking the lessons in working practices from this lockdown period, we are going to look at our use of technology and really advance our digital processes to see how we can provide a more efficient service for our clients.”