We caught up with Claire Gordon, Solicitor at Will Matters. She owns the business and provides expert advice surrounding will-writing legal issues to the people of Surrey and West Sussex.
In this interview Claire gives us more insight into how Will Matters carry out the work they do, particularly how they support the elderly in legal issues.
Can you tell us a little bit more about Will Matters and the services you provide?
Will Matters was set up when I decided not to go back to work as a solicitor in the City when my eldest child was unexpectedly born with Down’s Syndrome. My partner, Sally and I wanted to provide a knowledgeable, approachable and efficient service to local people. We prepare Wills for individuals and for couples, some incorporating trusts, Lasting Powers of Attorney both for Property and Financial Affairs and for Health & Welfare, Funeral Plans and Probate services.
What are the main issues surrounding elderly life and the law? How do Will Matters support the elderly community in Surrey?
One of the main issues would be access to the law – many elderly clients have mobility issues or transport issues or are spending extended time in hospital. We come to our clients homes which makes for a more relaxed experience. We are also very happy to visit our clients in hospital.
Another issue can be in cases where clients are displaying early signs of dementia which can make preparation of these types of documents very difficult. We are at pains to establish the best time to visit a client with an early diagnosis and who may meet the requirements for mental capacity to prepare a Will or a Lasting Power of Attorney. We recognise that a visit may not go to plan and that we may have to schedule a further appointment to try again.
What do you feel are the key considerations when helping an elderly relative choose legal services?
After the practical considerations discussed above, fundamentally people want their elderly relative to be treated with respect and kindness. The legal representative must be professional, knowledgeable, trustworthy and empathetic. Our ethos at Will Matters has always been customer centred and we work very hard to help meet the needs of our elderly clients.
We are enormously pleased when our clients tell us how happy they have been with the care our service provides and the sense of relief that they feel.
What is different about Will Matters to other will writing and legal services?
Will Matters is run by a solicitor (non-practising) who now works as a professional Willwriter and her business partner who is a professional Willwriter. We are members of the Institute of Professional Willwriters who require every member to pass an examination to practice and we are obliged to keep our training up to date and to hold appropriate insurance. We offer evening and weekend appointments to be as flexible as possible for our clients and fit in with their schedules and we offer fixed fees which are shown on our website to ensure transparency.
What do you feel are the key challenges providing legal services moving forward through the pandemic?
Primarily, we are not able to hold face to face meetings with our clients. We have mitigated this to some extent by holding online meetings and telephone calls but this is not necessarily appropriate for our elderly clients. As the lockdown eases and summer approaches it may be that we can meet in clients gardens with the appropriate social distancing requirements met.
The second problem is in relation to the witnessing requirements for signature of documents which have not been relaxed during the lockdown which makes it very difficult for documents to be finalised and to be valid. We have been doing our best and acting as witnesses using the open car boot as a signing area or looking through a window whilst a client signs their Will and then meeting the witness obligations outside with the client looking on from a distance. Of course, we hope that this is a temporary problem that will in time be mitigated.
Why were you keen to get involved with Age Space?
The challenges that families can face as relatives become elderly can be myriad and complicated and Age Space is a fantastic site for drawing all the relevant information together in one place so that visitors to the site can use it as a one-stop shop! Further the links to local resources is invaluable and may provide answers to questions that people may have or at least act as a starting point for what can be a testing journey.