One of the most effective ways to manage your risk is to invest in technology that improves processes and implements a consistent, controlled way of working. For the private client sector, enabling a solution that supports the accuracy and consistency of documents across a team, lessens the chance of manual errors that could later lead to scenarios such as contentious probate.
A negative claim can affect the trustworthiness of your practice and impact your brand. Trust is everything and by showing clients you have processes in place to manage risk effectively, tells them you’re doing everything in your power to ensure their wishes are upheld and the chance of having their Will and associated documents challenged, is unlikely.
Risk management doesn’t have to be a hefty hurdle to approach – having the right technology in place will do a lot of the leg work for you. You just need to ensure you partner with the right technology partner that understands your business and internal structure to ensure implementation success.
So, what can technology bring to the risk management table?
Consistency of Output
Using document automation software to draft key estate planning documents such as Wills, trusts, LPAs, etc, ensures outputs across a team are consistent – from the consistent wording of Will precedents to the look and feel of the business’s final documents. Other elements of the process can also be automated – the inclusion of signing instructions for example or a commentary in plain English that does your due diligence of explaining each clause for you. A CEO / COO who might not be involved in the document review process, can feel confident that outputs are remaining uniform to the business, regardless of whether they’ve been drafted by a Junior Solicitor or Head of Private Client. While the drafter still needs to use their knowledge and experience in deciding what is right for the client and to make the right choices in their software, solutions like Arken Professional guide them through the conversation, so nothing is forgotten.
Technology can stipulate mandatory fields that make it impossible for the user to download an incorrect or incomplete document, without vital checks being made first. Drafters are prevented from downloading a document without mandatory fields being addressed, which are clearly flagged. For example, in Arken Professional’s intuitive questionnaire, if the client is giving a gift to someone in their Will, but do not name the gift, then it will not continue through to the download stage. Additionally, the software will not allow you to gift the residue in percentage shares that do not add up to 100% or let you continue to the download stage if this has not been resolved. It also does not allow the residue to go to the spouse but at the same time, to set up a life interest for them too.
Additional examples of these are when you suggest inheritance tax is something that needs to be considered, it will be mandatory to go into a new tab, titled ‘inheritance tax’, to address it there. Also, if you gift residue to both exempt and non-exempt beneficiaries, Arken Professional will ensure the drafter addresses cross accrue.
These mandatory fields provide added comfort that the documents your business is producing are fully thought through.
Meticulous Notetaking and Accuracy
How do you ensure names and addresses aren’t mistyped? That someone isn’t overlooked in the Will? How can you protect against a clash of interests? Again – technology reduces the chance of error by referring back to key client information that has been inputted into the software. For example, Arken Professional includes a Client Profile to house key information, a data entry section to include additional information specific to the client and customisations for in-house preferences, as well as an Assets & Liabilities log, which ensures nothing’s missed. Another popular feature within Arken Professional is the automatic update to amend third person singular pronouns (he, she, his, hers) – eradicating these types of typographical mistakes, especially when it comes to preparing mirror Wills. Once you have added in a name or someone’s address, software can remember that and you only have to input it once – reducing the chance of typos.
Technology can pull through and refer to this ‘one version of the truth’ throughout the drafting process to ensure accuracy. Integrating a drafting solution with your case management software will further ensure this one version of the client remains in place when working between programmes.
Everyone can get frustrated with re-spacing and re-numbering in Word and it is very easy to make a mistake. Again, technology can help when it automatically sorts the spacing and numbering for you – saving you time, but also reducing your risk.
Collecting the Right Information
Data capture tools are another technology solution that ensure the correct information is gathered from the client at the very start, further reducing inaccuracies and any risk of miscommunication between client and drafter. Some data capture tools can be integrated with document drafting solutions, enabling a seamless delivery of client information into the drafting software without intervention, further reducing risk of any manual errors from re-keying data. This method of data capture also provides a record of the details supplied by the client and protects the drafter / practice from any liability from misinformation. For example, if the client forgets some assets that mean the inheritance tax may be liable, the practice has this on record and the responsibility lies with the client.
For example, Arken Acquire was developed to speed up the drafting process and ensure accuracy by sending the client a link to fill in their initial key information on their dependents, marital status, and assets and liabilities, which imports seamlessly into Arken Professional for drafting. With in-person interviews being restricted to remote phone and video calls, its ability to deliver accurate information remotely further lowers any risk of misinformation.
Should a client’s reasoning behind their decisions be challenged at any stage, some technology solutions offer a Notes section, which the drafter can refer back to if required. For example, reasons for excluding children in your Will or setting limitations on inheritance until they reach a certain age. If the executor needs more context, the Notes are there to provide this, helping them respond to any potential challenges during the probate process.
Providing a plain English Will Commentary and signing instructions as part of your resulting Will pack will ensure your client understands each section, and is comfortable with the content. Generating these helpful documents for clients shows you’re doing your due diligence by clearly explaining their wishes in writing, which they can refer back to at any point.
Clear communication doesn’t stop at the client / drafter relationship. Technology ensures there is one place to store and access documents securely, ensuring one version of the document remains on file. If members of a team are reviewing a document for a drafter, the risk of reviewing the wrong or older version of a document is minimised. The peer review process is made clearer, and more efficient.
As the world continues to adapt to remote working, with many companies embracing some of the productivity learnings from it and offering increased flexibility for employees to have a greater working from home / office balance beyond the pandemic, clear communication between teams and clients is paramount. Having the right, secure, technology in place will reduce risk that could arise from dispersed teams and any reduced in-person meetings with colleagues and clients.
Cloud-based solutions are the most secure way of protecting data – it is much harder for a hacker to infiltrate a huge supplier of cloud solutions then it is to access your data through less secure access to your office-based equipment and software. And yet 93.3% of enterprises keep their mission-critical workloads in on-premises infrastructure (IDC). Security of your clients’ sensitive data is uppermost in the era we live in – with cyber-crime being so prevalent – it is extremely important when choosing a technology provider that you look at how seriously they take security. Do they have regular penetration testing of their solutions to ensure they are using the latest thinking in cyber protections? Ask your potential providers who they use for cloud services. There are many out there that cost just a few pounds a month but don’t offer the same level of security. Don’t be shy at asking how much they spend on servers or who they use. Ask if data is encrypted during transfer, what protocols they have for back-ups of data? Where is your data stored? In the UK or further afield? Do they have any accreditations or external recognition? Technology will significantly improve risk management when it comes to data security, but you need to do your due diligence in selecting the right technology provider.