Welcome back to this new series of articles on reviewing your processes. In the first post, we looked at what documentation we would advise you to have in place before you take instructions for a Will and estate plan. In this article, we will focus on file administration and what we would advise you to do to ensure your file contains everything it needs.
As a will writer, you are required to take all reasonable and proper precautions to verify the identity of your client and that the instructions you take come from that person. This is in accordance with the Money Laundering Regulations 2007.
Ensure you have a copy of your client’s identification prior to the meeting. This verifies that the client is who they say they are. Two forms of ID should be obtained from each client. Our last article sets out the forms of ID that are acceptable.
Any document produced for proof of address must be no older than 3 months and must have the client’s current address on it. A copy of the ID should then be kept with the file so you can show you took steps to identify the client before taking instructions.
We cannot stress enough when we say notes, notes, notes. Not only is this important for you to refer to when drafting documents but second of all, it is a clear record of what was discussed during the meeting as well as the advice given to the client and how the client chose to proceed.
Having clear detailed notes will also be useful in the event of any complaint or even someone disputing the terms of the Will or the testator’s capacity. You may in future also be issued with a Larke v Nugus and asked to produce a copy of your will file including attendance notes which will also help you.
Not only should you have notes of the meeting with the client but also telephone attendance notes to confirm what was discussed with the client.
Some of you may want to make an audio or video recording of the instruction meeting with the client. If you choose to do this it is fine however you will need prior permission from the client.
Letter and Email Correspondence
Any letters sent to the client such as advice letters or disclaimers as well as copies of emails should also be kept on the file or uploaded to the CRM or drafting software you use. This includes letters from the land registry and the Office of the Public Guardian.
To summarise your file should include:-
- Signed client care letter
- Meeting notes
- Telephone attendance notes
- Email correspondence
- Any other letters to the client
- Draft and Signed Wills
- Registered LPA’s
We advise client files are kept for 6 years after the testator’s death. This would include questionnaires, attendance notes, a scanned copy of the Will, LPA questionnaires and attendance notes and scanned copies of LPAs.