Coronavirus crisis sparks launch of UK's first 'webcam wills' service
Elm Wills, which was set up in 2004, has already helped a number of clients via webcam meetings as it converts all face-to-face meetings to digital sessions.
A legal firm in Bristol has adapted to the social distancing restrictions and surging use of technology brought about by the Covid-19 crisis - by launching the UK’s first “webcam wills” service.
ELM Legal Services had planned to launch the online will writing and estate planning service later this year but decided to bring this forward in the light of the ongoing coronavirus situation.
The firm, which was set up in 2004, has already helped a number of clients via webcam meetings as it converts all face-to-face meetings to digital sessions.
“There are many firms offering faceless meetings and online will writing and we are always looking for different routes to market so we thought: ‘why not webcams?’” says Jim Emsley, CEO of ELM Legal Services, pictured.
“Autumn is always a busy time for will writing but we decided that it made sense to bring the launch forward, with the onset of social distancing due to the coronavirus crisis, and with so many people, including older generations, now becoming comfortable using the likes of Zoom and Skype on a regular basis.
“The pandemic has reinforced in people’s minds that we are all here for a limited period of time, and that we need to prepare for the end of life if we want to look after our nearest and dearest.”
A free “meet and greet” is the first step in the webcam wills process and once a client has signed up via the website, ELM will be in touch to organise a free 15-minute virtual meeting.
The next stage is to set up another appointment for a full 90-minute webcam consultation to enable the ELM estate planner to take the will instruction, which is then drafted by the legal team. Everything is recorded during the process to avoid any room for ambiguity.
“The beauty of a webcam meeting is that family members in other locations anywhere in the world can be invited to join in,” says Jim Emsley.
“Within 90 minutes we can get all the information we need to create a sensible estate plan. Once the will has been created we then convert the document into a pdf that is password protected and when normality resumes, we can issue a hard copy.
“Other online will providers tend to ask people to fill in forms whereas this service is much more personal - you can still build a rapport with a real person and interact with them in real time. At the same time it’s more convenient than a traditional face-to-face meeting as it can be done at a time to suit you, in the comfort of your own home.”
Jim Emsley says that around 70 per cent of people in the UK do not have a valid up-to-date will in place.
“You could say this is something that people should put at their top of their ‘lockdown list.’
“It’s quite understandable but astonishing nonetheless that so many people procrastinate and put off making a will because it’s something they don’t want to confront. Writing a will is something that everyone should do, and the current lockdown is the perfect time to do those things that are normally pushed to one side.
“The original copy must be kept in a safe place but that doesn’t mean it should be neglected. On average people will make a will in their late 30s and early 40s, when they are either co-habiting or married and are having children.
“Typically the will may then be updated when they are in their late 60s but ideally this is something that needs looking at every three years or so, especially when there is a major event in the family such a birth, marriage or death.”
As the pandemic continues ELM Legal Services is waiving the standard £99 will fee for all NHS workers until 7th May, when the Government-imposed lockdown is next up for review.