What should Willwriters always remember

These previous cases are extreme but other retiring Willwriters have found that their business is not the pot of gold they thought it might have been. What should Willwriters always remember?

1) Remember that your business comes with on-going liabilities – indemnity insurance, management of clients and client files. Don’t give up the assets without ensuring that the future liabilities are taken care of.

2) Trade as a limited company. Yes the accountancy fees will be higher, but the limited liability will provide some protection against future claims against the company-and a limited company bank account can continue in the names of new directors/shareholders.

3) Don’t store original documents yourself. The market for your business will be limited to buyers who have suitable physical document storage facilities.

4) Don’t offer free updates to Wills. Nobody likes to work for nothing and a business that is laden with such a burden is worse than valueless to anyone who might want to take it over.

5) Solicitors are ‘in the market’ to buy Willwriting firms. Their interest is not in the storage income, but in the potential probate business. However their interest wanes if the original documents are being stored with a provider of probate services. Don’t exclude potential buyers of your business by storing original client documents with a probate provider – even if the storage service that they provide is ‘free’.

6) Keep your clients close to you and keep a track of where they move to, by writing and/or emailing them regularly. In the short term, this will generate more work for you. In the longer term, a buyer is only going to value clients who can be contacted. Uncontactable clients will be a liability, I have seen adverts for Willwriting businesses for sale which say ‘large potential for additional work such as LPA’s, trusts etc’/ This sends out the message tto buyers that the clients of the business haven’t been cared for and there could be a lot of work for little money as many clients will be uncontactable and the others will be very disconnected from the business and may have written new Wills elsewhere.

7) Ensure payments for document storage are made by direct debit so that ongoing payments can be direct into any bank account, particularly the bank account of a successor business. When payments are made by direct debit, they can be increased over time. We have been fortunate that for the past decade or so, we have experienced low inflation and there hasn’t been a lot of pressure to increase fees paid by clients. But some Willwriters are being paid negligible fees (£5pa) on standing order by clients who have had documents in storage since the early 1990’s because it’s too much hassle to set up a new standing order for a new fee and the risk of cancellations is not attractive either.

8) Ensure that you have processes and people in place to deal with client requests (updates, return of Wills) in the event that you cannot deal with this – not only due to illness or death, but also during periods of absence due to holidays.

9) Don’t take on estate administration cases personally. Probate can, and should, be obtained in the names of the executor(s).

10) Plan early. Even if it means that you don’t maximise your income while you are working, releasing your loved ones from the stress, costs and burden created by your failure to plan is a small price to pay.

Succession Planning – Willwriter B:

Willwriter B is now in a care home and suffers from dementia. He had almost 1000 original documents in storage at his house and all clients were paying an annual fee for the service. Upon realising the severity of his illness, he sent all of the original documents back to his clients instructing them to cancel their standing orders. Approximately 20% of these came back to him marked “address gone away”, these 200 or so documents were boxed and ignored, most of which were still paying a standing order

Once Willwriter B had gone into care, his daughter came across the boxes of original client documents, and she now faces the responsibility of dealing with active clients who she can’t get in touch with due to the addresses being incorrect. She will have to maintain an indemnity insurance policy in case of any claim being made against Willwriter B’s estate.

If this situation sounds familiar or potentially could be, please get in contact as we would be able to assist you in ensuring that the best is done for your clients and your family.

Succession Planning – Willwriter A:

Willwriter A was a sole trader who had been offering storage and free rewrites to his clients for over 20 years – he had over 4000 clients paying by standing order for varying amounts each year. Unfortunately his health started to deteriorate quickly and due to the fact he had offered free rewrites to his clients, no one wanted to take on his client bank as a Willwriter due to the huge responsibility. Furthermore, due to the payments being taken by standing order, they couldn’t be transferred to another receiving account and as the sole trader account would close upon the death of Willwriter A.

His family were a little disappointed to find that the value of his client bank had all but vanished and that they were faced with the liability of storing the client files and maintaining indemnity insurance in case there was a claim against Willwriter A’s estate for negligence.

If this situation sounds familiar or potentially could be, please get in contact as we would be able to assist you in ensuring that the best is done for your clients and your family.

celebrity wills cause controversy……


The Purple One’s death on April 21 has triggered an almighty probate battle. Prince left no will and has no direct next-of-kin. According to Minnesota law, the late musician’s $300 million (£225m) fortune, Paisley Park mansion and lucrative back catalogue can be claimed by his closest relatives. Needless to say, plenty of ‘family members’ have come out of the woodwork to grab a piece of the pie. Earlier this month, the judge overseeing the estate rejected 29 phony claims and restricted the potential beneficiaries to Prince’s sister and five half-siblings, as well as a possible niece and grand-niece, ordering them to take DNA tests to prove their genetic connection. While this should narrow things down, the whole process is likely to drag on for some time yet.


joan crawfordJoan Crawford

Screen icon Joan Crawford died in 1977, leaving one of the most explosive wills in Hollywood history. The formidable actress and businesswoman famously disinherited her two older children Christina and Christopher from her $2 million (£1.5m) estate “for reasons which are well-known to them”. The siblings sued for a share of the estate, arguing that Crawford had been manipulated into disinheriting them by younger daughter Cathy and her husband Jerome. Christina and Christopher were finally awarded a relatively paltry $55,000 (£41k), but Christina had the last laugh. She went on to pen “Mommie Dearest”, a shocking tell-all exposé, which depicted her mother as a sadistic monster.



Harry Houdini

Ever the showman, escape artist extraordinaire and accomplished magician Harry Houdini died on Halloween 1926, leaving behind a suitably supernatural instruction in his will. Houdini was fascinated by the paranormal and was convinced he could get into contact with his wife Beatrice from beyond the grave. Houdini’s will contains a special request instructing his wife to conduct a yearly séance. The magic pioneer included an esoteric 10-digit code his spirit would use, so Beatrice would know it was really him. Mrs Houdini carried out her late husband’s wishes, putting on séances once a year for 10 years after his death – sadly, he never showed up.


Marilyn Monroemarilyn

The original blonde bombshell left all her belongings, including furnishings, clothes and jewellery to Lee Strasberg, her acting coach and mentor. In her will, Monroe stipulated that she wanted her personal effects to be shared out among her friends, colleagues “and those to whom I am devoted”. Instead, Strasberg hoarded his treasure trove of memorabilia, and watched it surge in value until his death in 1982. The estate passed to Strasberg’s third wife Anna, who made a cool $13.4 million (£10m) from a Christie’s sale in 1999. The lots included the famous JFK Happy Birthday gown, which went for $1 million (£749k), and Monroe’s baby grand piano, which was snapped up by Mariah Carey for $600,000 (£449k).

anna-nicole-smith-05Howard Marshall II

Oil magnate J. Howard Marshall II hit the headlines when he married Playboy Playmate Anna-Nicole Smith – 62 years his junior – a mere 14 months before his death in 1995. His will provided for his youngest son E. Pierce but left nothing for Anna-Nicole and the tycoon’s eldest son J. Howard Marshall III. Smith and J. Howard Marshall III launched lawsuit after lawsuit against the estate, seeking to contest the will and trust. Their cases went all the way to the US Supreme Court, and Smith’s case dragged on for years following her death in 2007. In the end, both claimants lost their legal challenges and E. Pierce got to keep the bulk of the estate.



William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare amassed a not-too-shabby fortune during his glittering career and by the time of his death in April 1616, the Bard was a very rich man. Shakespeare’s will was drawn up a month before his death, and provided generously for his children and other family members. His wife Anne Hathaway was not so lucky. Shakespeare left his spouse his “second-best” bed and not much else. It’s worth pointing out however that beds were particularly prized and valuable during this period of history, and in any case, Anne Hathaway would have been entitled a third of her husband’s estate, according to the law in England at the time.

don’t be sloppy with security….

One of our safe guardians wrote to us to explain a couple of reasons why she is adamant to get her clients to use National Will Safe;

“When I used to work in private practice for a number of law firms and I saw how they stored their Wills – in a metal filing cabinet (not fireproof) with no key and an archaic filing system. Several times I have witnessed the fact that old Wills which were thought to be stored with the law firms somehow were not in the cabinet when they were needed!Data-Breach-Photo

Also, now running my own legal practice, an elderly single lady client I did a Will for who had no children and was never married insisted on keeping her Will at home. Despite the fact that I did try to persuade her that if it went missing and her friend (who she had appointed as executor) couldn’t find it, the laws of intestacy would mean that her estate did not go where it should, and the person handling it would not be the person she had chosen.  Needless to say, when she died, I had a number of her estranged nephews on the phone to me asking me to tell them where her Will was. Obviously they’d found some correspondence but no Will. Fortunately I had a signed acknowledgement from her to confirm receipt of the original Will. As far as I know the estate went to estranged family members and not to friends and charities as she had hoped.”

We take security of clients documents very seriously, don’t let your clients take any unnecessary risks.


£2000+ commission per month…. create yourself some financial peace of mind….

“I have been storing wills through National Will Safe since I started in the business in 2003. I always think incentives are great to win but in all honesty the main reason for storing wills and LPA’s at National Will Safe is that it is a valuable service for some of my clients. They know their wills are going to be safe and secure and able to be found and accessed at a very difficult time for the family. I know that the wills are safe and that my clients have that peace of mind and assurance that the family will be dealt with efficiently and compassionately following the death of a loved one.

Year on year the commission paid increases exponentially. It takes time but if you are in this for the long term, as most IPW members are, then it provides long term growth and security for your business. The monthly commission statement gets bigger (£2000+ this month) and helps take the pressure off hunting for new clients endlessly (although I still do that!).

National Will Safe are a valuable strategic partner. I deal with the front end business (writing the wills and the LPA’s) and then get them in storage and forget about them. No worries about insurance, the logistics of physically keeping them, administration etc. just the monthly pay check from National Will Safe! I know also that when I retire, then my business is more attractive as any purchaser doesn’t need to think about and arrange the collection of 400 filing cabinets! 

If you are not using National Will Safe then you are missing a trick.”

Chris Heiberg (Peace of Mind Wills ltd)

POMW pan 659 logo

Always better to be safe than sorry when dealing with important documents….

One of our safe guardians sent us a message recently to tell us of how one of their clients had managed to avoid a potentially costly mistake;

“I was recently contacted by a client who has written Wills, LPAs & Lifetime Trusts with me. He was in a panic because he had been burgled and all the documents from his safe had been taken. He had spoken to his insurance company, and they were unsure as to whether he was covered for the £3000+ his documents had cost him – he was also concerned that he needed to sort this as a matter of urgency because he and his family were going on holiday in a week or so and he didn’t want to go without new Wills & LPAs in place. I checked my records and was delighted to be able to tell him that all the burglar had taken were the copy documents – the originals were stored with NWS and they kindly sent him scans of the documents they had in storage. He was so pleased that he had opted to pay for the storage for their original documents even though he had a safe at home! I seem to remember he did take a bit of persuasion to convince to use a storage company.”

It is always prudent to be safe.

safe File on white background (done in 3d)

Contact National Will Safe to find out how we can secure your clients documents for you.

How to regain the work / life balance….

In 2015 another one of our safe guardians moved their entire client bank to National Will Safe in order to focus on the further growth of their already busy will writing business. They sent over documents for around 1000 clients, and this is what they had to say about the experience;

work life balance

“I have been running a very busy will writing business for the last 3 years and during this time managed to accumulate a large number of wills in storage. On the face of it this was great as the revenue built up handsomely increasing with every will that went into the Fire King (fireproof cabinet). However keeping track of who had paid, who hadn’t paid which client had an LPA with the will, people with different surnames even when they were married with mirror wills, staff coming and going, caused more and more work for me. It almost became a full time job looking after it. Not to mention that having moved offices three times, keeping in touch with my storage clients was more than a challenge. 

So when I met National Will Safe and considered their offering, after some thought, I made the decision to move my storage to them. I had about 1000 wills, with only 350 standing orders; I had 250 wills in storage for people who weren’t paying. 

National Will safe came to my office, picked them all up, wrote to all of my clients and now I know who is paying, when I will receive my income, all of my clients know where their wills are, I have a working data base of clients making it easy for me to market to them and all I had to do is hand over the wills. 

I am so impressed and so grateful for their help. I can now focus on building the business without the cost of employing someone to manage the storage part of the business. Even better, as the clients received their letters informing them of the move to National Will Safe, I have picked up numerous referrals to write more wills and LPA’s, discussed clients will provisions and upgraded them to include better provisions (all inbound contacts).
I could not be more impressed with the help and support they have given me, and the smooth trouble free transition to National Will Safe.”

If you are storing your clients documents yourself, contact us to find out how we can help you to regain your work / life balance and create revenue while not having to do the hard admin.