Meeting the Client
The first step in preparing a will is to meet with your client to obtain information to advise, draft and execute the will.
Studies show most lawyers who use wills as a loss leader do not increase their overall business, and they sometimes do not serve their clients well. This in turn can lead to unnecessary claims and complaints to the Law Society.
Typically, the client, a family member or friend will contact you to inquire about making a will. They will often ask about the fee, as many clients like to shop around for the best rate. Lawyers often prepare wills at low or below-cost rates as a “loss leader” or as a community service. Because clients often ask for a quote, many lawyers charge a flat fee. This is one area where notaries have been permitted to practice, so be prepared to discuss the advantages of lawyer services, such as extended education and experience, with your prospective clients.
Some lawyers prefer to mail out a questionnaire to be completed by the client before the initial meeting. Others prefer to meet with the client in person to gather the necessary information and take instructions. In either case, you should always check for possible conflicts prior to the first meeting and explain the need to review personal data and relevant documents.
The will-maker is your client, regardless of who first contacted you about preparing the will (note that WESA replaces the terms “testator” and “testatrix” with the gender neutral, plain language term “will-maker,” which is defined simply as “the person who makes a will” (s. 1 WESA)). Your focus must remain on the client’s needs and wishes throughout the will-making process.
Although your support staff may be responsible for many duties in your office, it is your responsibility to attend to the will-making process, which includes:
- meeting with the client to obtain instructions;
- reviewing search reports;
- reviewing documents before signing; and
- attending at execution of documents.
Note also the limitations of notaries in preparing wills. A notary cannot draw or supervise the execution of a will that creates a trust that continues past the age of majority (see section 18(b)(iii) of the Notaries Act).
Recommended further reading to complete this module:
Wills & Estates Fundamentals for Legal Support Staff – 2008, (The Continuing Legal Education Society of BC).
Wills & Estate Planning Basics – 2006, (The Continuing Legal Education Society of BC).