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The will to win business

Wills could be a useful area of diversification for IFAs who have seen their business hit by the financial downturn.

Consumer group Which? recently said apathy over making wills was a serious risk. Over half of the people questioned by Which? for a recent survey said they do not have a will, with the most common reasons being a lack of awareness or not having got round to it.

Over a third of people over 65 without a will think they did not need one, more than any age group, and two-thirds of all the people surveyed do not know that if a couple are not married, then their children will inherit everything if one of the couple dies without making a will.

Which? legal service senior lawyer Peter McCarthy says: “Our research shows that too many people are suffering from will apathy and do not get round to making a will, which could have serious consequences for those left behind.”

Mortgage club PMS recently launched a will service for IFAs to refer their clients and get income. It is offered in association with solicitors Ison Harrison which will store the wills and allow free updates for the first five years. PMS development director Martin Reynolds says: “Holistic advice is not just about providing a mortgage and adequate protection, it is about making sure that all the client’s needs and wishes are carried out. Including wills as part of this process will enable the intermediary to ensure their clients’ needs are covered.”

IFAs also have the option of offering a will-writing service themselves. Philip J Milton & Company is an IFA firm which offers will-writing and probate services and director Scott Pickard says although will-writing is a loss-leader for them, it does add value for clients and leads to other discussions about estate planning and inheritance tax.

He says: “If you are managing funds under an estate and they need advice, you can work out the most efficient way to invest their money and this can lead on to a discussion about their will. There are all these links to and from will-writing.”

For smaller IFA firms and sole traders, Pickard says it may be more efficient to set up a referral service with a local solicitor but he says it depends on the IFA’s level of expertise.

Pickard says: “We find a high proportion of our clients do not have wills. People do not like to face the fact that they are mortal.”

Informed Choice joint managing director Martin Bamford says although his firm does not offer will-writing services, he can see the advantages of doing so.

The company has a referral service to a number of solicitors instead but he says as long as an IFA has the training and support to offer the service direct, it can be a string to add to their bow.

He says: “There is always a risk that you go off and diversify into irrelevant areas but this is a very relevant area as it fits in with inheritance tax and estate planning.”

In the longer term, he says it may be more advantageous to offer a referral service as this enables IFAs to build strong relationships with solicitor firms. There are organisations that IFAs can join, such as The Society of Will Writers and Estate Planning Practitioners, which will help with training, software and support.

There are also short courses available and the College of Will Writing offers residential and distance-learning courses.

The Chartered Insurance Institute does not offer specific courses in will-writing but many of its courses include section on the importance of advising on wills, making wills and ensuring clients do not die intestate.

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Paul Lothian

Personal Finance Society president Paul Lothian started his financial services career at the age of 17 when, struggling for a big break in the music business, he joined his parents’ Dundee insurance brokerage as an office junior.

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