Making a Will is often emotional. COVID-19 has heightened our feelings, so we take a look at how our emotions have been unlocked, and how we can help.
We’ve been in lock-down almost two months now, and the world has changed around us. But we still want protection, right? Maybe this feels even more important to us now?
Morecambe Bay Wills and Estates Limited talked to other will-makers about what this means to our clients. We focussed particularly on how clients are feeling about making a Will right now.
- Technology is available, but people still prefer a face-to-face meeting.
- Some younger people have a new sense of urgency.
- A fear of facing mortality and heightened anxiety has made some clients put the brakes on the process altogether.
- Many clients rush to start, then feel over-whelmed so quickly pause.
- Finance is a consideration for many.
In mid-March, as the COVID-19 crisis began to emerge, I was about to go on holiday for a month. Many new clients were in a rush to see me, not necessarily because of the impending virus, but because they would rather do it now than wait a month! Others were happy to wait for the appointment for mid-April.
I had only one client who called 3 days before I went – she wanted a Will now, as she had an underlying health condition She was getting worried about the effect this may have on her if it did escalate. So, we worked quickly, and she and her husband signed their Wills the evening I was packing to go away!
My holiday was cut short as borders were closing, and the situation was escalating, so I returned home and back to work. My “future” clients were all happy to pull their appointments forward and get started. I was lucky enough to have the ability to do remote consultations and forms all ready and waiting to go (I used to work remotely in a large organisation, so I knew the importance of contingency!). So, we made arrangements to chat by Zoom.
For some it worked. For others, however, this was absolutely not a possibility – certainly not for an elderly, terminally ill, client who has no technology and is partially deaf. As these were exceptional circumstances, I visited her at home (masked and gloved) and we got her Will and General Power of Attorney arranged quickly. She wouldn’t have done this “virtually” so was clearly pleased to have the protection she needed.
Some of my clients had Wills drafted before I left and they were now happy with them, so we needed to get them signed. Easy? Not really …. they fell into three camps:
- Let’s just get it done – “I just want it done so let’s do it with precautions” (in the garden, gloves, separate pens etc etc)
- I’m cautious but want to get it sorted – “Don’t come and see me – send me the Wills and I will get the neighbours to witness them” (socially distanced of course).
- STOP – “I don’t want anyone coming near me., so I will have to wait. It doesn’t feel important now”
Clients who did continue told me that once their Wills were signed that they felt a sense of comfort and relief. “I can relax now I know it’s sorted”. Although that’s often what my clients say, COVID or not.
I have several clients who also have Lasting Powers of Attorney that are part way through the process – and this is being delayed because the Office of the Public Guardian aren’t fully staffed. Some are impatient, and some are worried in case they need these documents quickly if they become ill, or have to self-isolate. So I provide them, free of charge, a simpler “General Power of Attorney” to cover financial assistance, or an Advance Decision laying out their treatment wishes, as an interim measure until their LPAs are received. They tell me that “I feel assured that I have something in place now”.
Making a Will can be emotional – and even more so now
I continue to get new enquiries and talk to clients about how things had changed and how we could ensure we can still make progress. I supply them with more information about what they would need to think about and find that (unlike in “normal” times) some are finding this bit over-whelming and simply stop. This has never happened before. Yes – some enquiries don’t go ahead because people have chosen to use someone else, but never before has anyone started and then stopped. So, I ask “Why?” and this is what they tell me:
- I’m overwhelmed – “It’s made realise how much I need to think about it, and I can’t face it”
- I need more help – “I thought it would be simple but there’s more to it. I want to wait until we can have a ‘proper’ discussion”
- It made me cry – “It’s made me feel anxious. I thought I’d be OK, but I cried when I got the information through. I am crying at so many things right now, so I’d better wait”
Others, of course, just want to “get on with it” – and I find these are mainly the younger clients. Often those with small children, now at home, and this crisis has given then time to get these things sorted. Once they start, they are happy to continue and get their Wills completed. Their response is often “I’m doing what I should have done a long time ago”. Of course, there are older clients who still want to go ahead too.
One of the key considerations is finance. So many people have an uncertain time now and into the future. Many want to get protected, with Wills and LPAs, but are worried about their budgets with such an indefinite outlook. So, I ask them if it’s a real priority and if it is, would a payment plan help?. “Pay me over a few months” … and for many that is the answer. If they are feeling worried about protection, but want to move ahead, paying in instalments can make it happen for them. They tell me “It takes away the pressure”. For me, it’s all about being flexible in this new world …
Many clients who decide to wait are waiting for us to be able to talk properly, face-to-face. This is absolutely my preference too. You can give good service over the phone and by video, but you really get a great service when you talk properly to someone. The guidance, the “real story”, scenarios you may never have thought of, and information you may never have thought to give. Or just a good old chat! Because personal interaction makes us all feel better – and that’s why our clients prefer it to “doing it online”, and so they will wait.
My own experience is very similar to that of all other will-makers I’ve spoken to. One reminded me that normally our clients are taking proactive steps to protect themselves, and this situation has meant they are being reactive. And that feels different – they’ve moved from “planning” mode to “survival” mode – and they feel less in control and more liable to be emotional.
It’s OK …
I’ve talked to all my clients about how they are feeling. And I’ve told them:
- It’s OK to feel nervous
- It’s OK to feel confident and get on with it
- It’s OK to worry about your finances
- It’s OK to feel terrified
- It’s OK to feel anxious
- It’s OK to go ahead and feel relieved that you have
- It’s OK to wait …
In fact, it’s OK to feel however you feel. I will be there when you need me, now or in the coming months.
If you want to talk about your Wills, or LPAs, just contact me – we can have a chat and you can go ahead in your own time. That’s OK … I will be there whenever the time is right for you. And of course, when I can come and see you in person, I will be there for a “good old chat” !
And I know my will-making colleagues will be there for their clients too.