Just like that, the 2019 conference has been and gone. It’s hard to believe that this time last week we were finalising all the arrangements and making sure we had everything packed and ready to go before heading over to the Hilton. 2019 marked the 23rd annual conference for The Society of Will Writers and we had always intended for it to be a special event. It’s safe to say that it did not disappoint and arguably this has been our most successful conference ever.
This year’s conference saw our highest ever attendance at over 150+ attendees comprising of delegates, speakers, exhibitors and Society staff. We would at this point like to express our deepest gratitude to everyone who had a hand in making this year’s event such a success. The teams at both Chancery House and the Hilton have all worked extremely hard to organise this event and with the amount of positive feedback we’ve received so far, some members even dubbing it their best conference ever, it’s clear that this hard work has not only paid off, but clearly been recognised by those in attendance.
As ever the conference spanned across 2 days with a host of speakers covering various topics on day one, workshops on day 2, with a private dinner sandwiched in the middle – more on that later!
Day 1 – Talks
Day 1 kicked off with a breakfast slot from Seb Shakh, giving a brief demo and Q&A session on Sure Will Writer – Professional Will Suite. Seb is the lead developer for our drafting software and we’re always glad to have him with us at conference, as are the delegates. It’s not often you get chance to sit down with the team behind the software that many of us use on a daily basis, and even though there was a lot to squeeze into such a short slot, plenty turned up to learn about what out software has on offer.
The Society’s Director General Brian McMillan was back with us for this year’s conference who opened the conference, giving a roundup on the last 25 years of the Society and all that we achieved. He touched on some of our greatest achievements, such as the College, the technical assistance we provide and our services to the legal industry and the public. Brian also served as compère for the entire event, which he and the delegates clearly enjoyed, he also handled the Q&A sessions as well as closing the event.
After Brian we had a brief update from Antony Brinkman, recently appointed Chairman of the Society’s Professional Standards Board. Antony covered the projects that the PSB would be taking on in the coming months such as the members handbook, complaints handling and reviewing of the audit forms. He also touched on how as professionals practicing in an unregulated industry, we should be proud of the work we do and how our services are not to be undervalued.
Following Antony we had Siobhan Rattigan covering the Inheritance (Provisions for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. Siobhan has been the lead tutor for The College of Will Writing since January 2018 and has in that time parted her extensive knowledge to hundreds of students through the SWWEPP Wills and Estate Planning Certificate Course, so it’s safe to say she knows her stuff. Siobhan’s talk was both informative and engaging, taking the delegates through perhaps all they may ever need to know about the processes involved when excluding beneficiaries from a Will.
After short break we had Fay Collinson, barrister for Kings Chambers covering Undue Influence, Financial Abuse and Coercion of a Testator. Fay’s talk started with a warning that the contest of Wills is on the rise. Using a combination of both research and examples from her own personal experience, Fay’s talk perfectly complimented Siobhan’s really grounding the knowledge which was being shared with the delegates and emphasis the need for clear, contemporaneous notes and proper practicing.
Due to a last minute change in the schedule Fay very kindly took up part of the first slot after lunch to round off her talk, but also provide an impromptu Q&A session for the delegates which allowed many the chance to get involved which, isn’t always a possibility at conference. We’d just like to thank Fay once again for very kindly going above and beyond what is expected of a speaker at a Society conference.
Next up, also standing in at the last minute was Paula Finch, award winning entrepreneur and tutor for the College of Will Writing. Paula is also a master trainer in Neuro Linguistic Programming which formed part of her taster session which was delivered to the delegates. Paula’s courses form part of our new Business Development series and being able to show these live to such a large audience was not only beneficial for their own learning, but also demonstrated our dedication to deliver a variety of courses to members and non-members alike. Again, we’d just like to thank Paula for stepping in, and for also being on standby for the entire event! You can learn more about Paula’s courses here.
Rounding off Day 1 was Simon Douglas, Barrister of 5 Stone Buildings. Simon’s talk also fit nicely into the day’s running, covering Mistakes in Wills and How to Correct them. Having already covered claims under the 1975 act, undue influence and coercion, Simon’s talk book ended the day’s learning going into depth on the different type of errors and the different methods of correction. Much like previous speakers, Simon used knowledge of case law and personal experience to validate his topics which again, just like the previous speakers was very well received.
Day 1 – Private Dinner
Day 1 always ends with a private dinner and, just like the conference itself was attended by the highest number of people ever. As part of the 25th anniversary celebrations, the dinner was to be a black-tie event with live music, dancing and casino tables. This was certainly the best evening I’ve had at conference, with this being my 4th time attending now. Seeing everyone dressed up in their best attire was truly a sight to behold. The evening was filled with fun and laughter and will be a night many of us will remember for a long time, as cheesy as that sounds! If you have not yet had chance to attend a Society conference dinner, I urge you to do so any your next opportunity, you really are missing out.
Day 2 – Workshops
Day 2 features 3 workshops delivered by industry experts and normally serves as an optional day to the conference. This year delegates were all invited to book for both days at a special rate, again as part of the celebrations and the day was very well attended with all three workshop rooms packed. This year we had Gerrard Fisher discussing how to properly protect your client’s personal data, Tim Farmer covering Vulnerability and Vulnerable Clients and Andy Riddle who looked at Deputyships – the good, the bad and the ugly. All 3 workshops were really engaging, very well received and gave delegates a lot to think about. Both Tim and Andy are regular faces at conference and are always well received by delegates having both exhibited and given talks before, and for Gerrard this is his first conference for us, however we have been working with his company, Astrid Data Protection for some time now which should not be a new name to our members.
As always we’re proud to have our conference sponsored by a whole host of companies, who without their support the event just would not be possible.
This year’s event was proudly support by:
- Co-op Funeralcare
- Fraser & Fraser
- Skipton Building Society
- SWW Trust Corporation
- Charities Aid Foundation
- Certainty the National Will Register
- Professional Deputies
- Peleman Industries
- The National Will Archive
- Solve Legal – official media partner
The delegates always enjoy seeing exhibitors at our conference, we’re sure not just for the freebies but actually to discover the range of products and services which are available to them. What’s on offer by our exhibitors not only benefits you as the member, but also your client in improving the service that you offer.
Whilst many of these are already Society partners, their work should not go unnoticed. You can find out more about our partners here.
It cannot be said enough how hard the staff have worked this year, not just for the conference but in general. We at the Society are only a small team, in fact there are only 10 of us and with now near on 1,700 members to look after, plus partners, students through the college and many others, it can at times be a lot to handle. However, the team at Chancery House take everything in their stride and should be proud of the work that we all do.
Gratitude must also be given to the staff at the Hilton East Midlands Airport who provided not only their conference facilities and hotel rooms, but also their support in the organisation of the event and assistance to everyone who needed it during the conference itself. There is nothing they could not have done for us, and we’re so thrilled with how well conference went, a lot of which is down to the staff and their excellent facilities.
So that’s conference in a nutshell. Well, a 1600+ word nutshell!
Thank you all for attending and for your feedback on the event so far. Now we just have to top it in 2020 so wish us luck! Please be advised that CPD certificates and feedback forms will be sent out in due course.
If you’d like an alternative write-up of our conference, check out Today’s Wills and Probate’s coverage here.