Keeping your clients' wills up to date

02 Jan 2013

The start of a new year is more commonly associated with beginnings rather than endings. Unfortunately life doesn’t last forever and as a consequence there is never a bad time to make sure your clients’ wills are up to date – that is, if they actually have one. Reports suggest that as many as seven out of 10 people in the UK do not have a current will and when you consider the assets, investments and savings people can accumulate over a lifetime, it is a significant amount of wealth that can essentially go unaccounted for. It’s easy to assume that your estate will automatically go to your partner or children once you die, but if there is no will in place then you are deemed to have died intestate and it is the law, rather than the individual or their family, that decides what happens.

For some people wills can be an uncomfortable subject or something they would prefer not to think about – presumably as it reminds them of their own mortality – but the reality of loved ones being impacted financially while trying to deal with their grief is an even worse alternative. It is this that reluctant will makers should be made to contemplate, that through their own inactivity they could essentially be hampering their nearest and dearest. The process can be straightforward and cheap, yet offers reassurance that money can’t provide – the knowledge that the people you care about will receive what you want them to once you have passed and they will have one less headache to come to terms with.

Wills are not traditionally something mortgage brokers have got themselves involved with, but there is absolutely no reason why it shouldn’t be a logical extension of the home-buying process. We have already seen a number of advisers diversify from a simple home loan proposition into offering related insurances to cover what is the largest debt most people will take on in their lives, yet they seem happy enough to leave customers to their own devices in terms of what would happen in the event of the death of one of the mortgagees. It is probably part of the British psyche that we find discussing such eventualities a touch awkward, but it is nowhere near as uncomfortable as the discussions likely to occur between one’s relatives if you pass away intestate.

Those brokers who feel that will writing and other legal agreements are outside of their remit or area of expertise may feel more comfortable establishing some sort of introducer arrangement with a firm better equipped to handle such enquiries. Many networks or distributors have such partnerships in place for their members to take advantage of and at Paradigm, we’re no different. We actually created a legal brand ’Paradigm Legal’ in cahoots with Redstone Wills (itself part of Skipton Building Society) to provide brokers with a simple way to help their clients and gain access to a trusted company with a wealth of experience. The whole process is completely straightforward, but for those who are uncertain we have a dedicated legal helpline for any advisers requiring any assistance in this area.

While it is easy to see how mortgage brokers can work wills into their propositions, it needn’t be an end to a legal services offering. Indeed, wills could just be the tip of the iceberg and from there a natural progression into other areas can be undertaken. Arranging the other legal parts of the house-buying process such as conveyancing, surveys and searches are all eminently manageable for brokers and they can earn an introductory fee for relatively little leg work on their part. Some of these suggestions may be akin to teaching grandmothers to suck eggs, but not all brokers are fully switched on to opportunities that are staring them in the face.

When mortgage lending volumes were much higher than they were today, brokers didn’t necessarily have to entertain supplementary products and services as they were earning enough from their core business, but those times have changed. Aside from the financial implications of branching out, advisers should want to offer their clients as comprehensive a range of products and services as possible. Yes some mortgage brokers just treat their profession as a day job, but many are motivated to pursue it as career out of a genuine desire to want to help people tackle their finances and manage their lives better. If they can help them find the most suitable mortgage; protect their repayments, house and even themselves; and meet their legal needs then they really can help positively influence their clients’ lives. Mentioning wills during the home-buying process may feel a little uncomfortable at first, but it could soon become second nature and if it goes some way towards reducing that alarming seven out of 10 statistic, then all the better.

 

Bob Hunt

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