The importance of attendance notes
Posted on 5th June 2017 at 23:05
In this part of your training, Ally Ilott discusses the importance of making excellent attendance notes.
"For those of you who don't know me, the majority of my working life has been spent in the heavily regulated world of financial planning. I was a Financial Adviser for five years and spent the following fifteen years supervising and managing Financial Advisers. With that in mind, I have a strong compliance and controls based background underpinned with a need to ensure the client is at the heart of everything I do and a strong sense of right and wrong.
During this year, I took a leap of faith and changed the direction of my career by starting a wills and estate planning business with my (fantastic!) business partner Rachel. And while my new role is quite different, I have been able to implement the principles from my many years in financial planning.
One of the practices I have embedded is ensuring that a client's situation or 'story' is accurately detailed in my attendance notes. For those of you who work in financial planning, you will be familiar with ensuring that not only are the 'hard facts' captured accurately but the 'softer facts' (thoughts, opinions, feelings etc) are documented to demonstrate a great understanding of the client in line with 'know your customer' principles.
Every reputable will writing company or legal practice will ensure that 'Attendance Notes' accompany every instruction for a will. These notes should comment on the discussions which took place, the client's thoughts, feelings and objectives and the client's mental capacity as a minimum. With older or more vulnerable clients you would expect the notes to be even more comprehensive and evidence of mental capacity included as well. Most importantly, these notes should be made as soon as practically possible following the client meeting.
For the most part, these notes will probably never be referred to again but for cases which end up in Court - the notes will be requested and considered and and they should provide strong evidence of the client's thought process and mental capacity. Particularly in cases where the will is challenged by someone who thought they should have been a beneficiary or should have been left more of the estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975. Part of our job when helping a client write a will is to discuss members of their immediate family and ensure we have an accurate picture of everyone who would normally expect to benefit from their will. Where the client's wishes differs from this, the notes we make are even more critical.
There has been criticism from the court on the lack of detailed notes from some will writers and we feel very strongly that our notes reflect our client meetings accurately and comprehensively any anyone picking up a client file would have a full understanding of the client's wishes and the content of the meeting.
Heritage Estate Planning provide a professional service to clients, usually in their own home at a time to suit them. If you would like to speak to us about making a will or Lasting Power of Attorney we would be delighted to speak to you."
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