For many the idea of writing a will can be a daunting task, and often something that they don’t really want to think about, but Samantha Strong of Strong Wills believes that it does not have to be a negative experience. “A will is really just an insurance policy, much like contents insurance or life insurance. You hope that you won’t ever have to use it, but by doing it, you know that it’s there if you do.”
Samantha has been running her own will writing business, for the past two years. Having originally worked as a charity fundraiser, she decided to make the change to law in 2009. After studying for a law degree on a part time basis, whilst still working, she then went on to do an LPC. It was during this time that she got married to Leigh, and they were both keen to start a family.
When Samantha fell pregnant with her first child, Mia, now 4, she realised that it would be difficult to balance being a mother and doing a training contract at the same time. “I thought I would have to put my law career on hold, but when I started speaking to other friends within the industry, they encouraged me to look at will writing as I could do this with the qualifications I had without going through a full traineeship.”
Samantha had enjoyed this area of law during her studies, and felt that it would be a way to be able to work for herself, and to also help people, which was an important factor to her. “I wanted to practice law so that I could help people, and guide and advise them, rather than work for a large corporate or high street company, so will writing seemed like a great way to do this.” She started her specialised will writing training and exams when her daughter was still young, and then set up her company ‘Strong Wills (Legal)’ at the end of 2015.
Samantha understands that some people often put off creating a will, just because they do not want to think about their own demise, but she aims to make the experience as positive as possible. “Sometimes people can feel quite depressed at the thought of putting together their will, but I work with them and explain everything as I go, and often by the end they are actually happy and pleased that they have done it as it is a weight off of their mind.”
She feels that her approach to clients is different to that of high street firms, or larger companies. Originally from Edgware, she now lives in Loughton, but is completely mobile and is able to visit people in their own homes, mainly in the evenings, to give one-to-one consultations. Before the meeting, Samantha sends a questionnaire to gain a better understanding of what might be the best will for each client. “Often people have never really had conversations with their family about their death, and what they want to happen after they die in terms of property, money or even children. The questionnaire I send out encourages these discussions to be had before we meet, to avoid any confusion or awkwardness around these sensitive issues.”
During the meeting, Samantha talks through options and gives advice and information to help people understand the process. She is always happy to answer any questions or concerns people may have. “Writing a will is something that no one really learns about, but it is something that is very important, so by going through it in detail, I hope that I am able to give people the best advice possible, so that they are clear on what they are doing.”
Within two weeks of the initial meeting, Samantha will send a draft document for the client to review and make changes. Once they happy with the final details, Samantha then meets them to supervise signature of the will, and can also organise storage of document if required. Prices for her service start at around £150 for a basic will for a single person, with no minors or trusts, but can vary depending on how complex the situation is.
Although it is now possible to apply for a will online, Samantha believes this can sometimes cause more problems and cost later down the line. “When you apply online, it does not enable discussion of different scenarios or situations you might not have thought of, so I would always recommend speaking to an expert to go through all the options.”
For those who already have a will, Samantha suggests reviewing it every five years to ensure the information is correct and still relevant. “Whilst your situation may not have changed, others that may be named as your children’s guardians or executors to your will might have, and it is best to reflect this in your will.”
She would also recommend that it may sometimes be a good idea to nominate more than one executor that you trust to oversee dealing with your estate. “When someone dies, especially a partner, it can often be a very stressful and emotional experience to sort out elements of their estate, so having more than one person able to carry out your wishes can really help to give them the support they need at such a painful time.”
Many of Samantha’s clients start thinking about writing a will usually after having children, and she deals a lot with couples with young families. Having recently had her second child, she understands their situation and can offer practical advice. “When I had my first child, I began to think differently about wills, and we started to think about it properly for the first time. I realised that it was no longer just about myself and my husband, but about what would happen to our daughter, if anything happened to us. One thing that I found out that really shocked us was that if we were to both die, then without a will, social services could be responsible for making a decision about my daughter’s care. Even if we’d discussed that grandparents or other family members would intervene, without a will stating named guardians, there is nothing to stop social services overruling this.”
Samantha really enjoys running her own business as it allows her to work around her children and her home life, and gives her the flexibility to set her own hours. “I am my own boss, which I love, and can develop my career whilst still being there for my children.” She recognises that having your own business may not for everyone, but Samantha would definitely encourage anyone thinking about it to give it a go. “For anyone considering starting their own business, I would recommend just going for it. I have always wanted to be my own boss, so this is a dream come true for me. It can be tricky at times as it is difficult to switch off, and you feel like you are always ‘on duty’, but the positives outweigh the negatives, and it is definitely one of the best things I have ever done.”
Strong Wills would like to offer readers of The Jewish Weekly, a 10% discount on the price of a simple Will for a single person or two mirror wills for a couple. Please mention The Jewish Weekly when making initial booking. This offer is valid until the end of January 2018. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or on the Strong Wills Legal Facebook page.
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