How Can A STEP Wills And Probate Solicitor Help Me?5th Jul 2022
What Is A STEP Solicitor?
STEP is the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners – a global organisation of lawyers, accountants, trustees and other practitioners with extensive experience of wills and probate matters.
Not every solicitor can join STEP. Members must have at least five years’ experience of wills and probate. They must also pass strict selection criteria. So you can be sure that STEP members will be giving you the best possible legal advice on making your will, drafting your powers of attorney or on creating or administering trusts.
That’s because STEP doesn’t just test how well a solicitor knows the law and can quote the relevant legislation. It examines how well they can apply it in real-life situations for the optimum benefit of their clients. So STEP is a very practical, hands-on qualification – it’s one you should look for and prioritise when choosing your wills and probate solicitor.
How Wills Solicitors Qualify For STEP Membership
Joining STEP is not a quick process. It takes two years to become a member – on top of all the time a lawyer would have spent studying to qualify as a solicitor. In my case that meant gaining my:
- Law & Tax Degree (Bournemouth University) – a four-year ‘sandwich’ course
- Legal Practice Course (Oxford Institute of Legal Practice) – one year
- Training contract with a law firm – two years
- Post-qualification experience (PQE) – at least five years.
There are two ways that a lawyer can complete the two-year STEP process: either by taking a number of exams or by completing three 5,000-word essays.
These essay must be detailed, accurate and incisive – simply writing 15,000 words about wills and probate is no guarantee of a pass!
How STEP Tests How Well Solicitors Apply Their Legal Knowledge
STEP examines how well practitioners can cope with challenging situations, how well they can identify hidden pitfalls – and ensure that the wills, powers of attorney and trusts they’ve drafted for their clients are legally watertight.
The STEP exams and essays test how well a lawyer can:
- determine the client’s precise wishes and circumstances
- identify any potential family issues or legal pitfalls
- use the law to identify possible solutions for the client
- convey all the necessary information to the client in a jargon-free and reassuring way
- enable the client to make informed decisions about important issues
- help them to draft their will, powers of attorney or create and administer trusts so they achieve the desired result and comply with this complex area of the law
- do all of this in a strategic and holistic way that takes into account all the client’s requirements.
Let me give you an example. This is a typical STEP essay question. In fact, it’s one of the three that I answered when I passed my STEP qualification…
‘You are asked to see an 85-year-old testator. How do you prepare a will to ensure that it is not invalid for:
- Lack of testamentary capacity?
- Lack of knowledge and approval?
- Undue influence?
‘Please explain the relevant legal tests and case law and consider any practical steps you would take. How might your answer change if you were unable to meet your client face-to-face?’
It is vitally important to ensure that a testator (the person making the will) is not being unduly influenced by others who may seek to gain from their estate; that the will they sign is indeed their true last wishes.
This has always been of vital importance but now more so than ever because more wills are being disputed. Legal challenges are now more likely to occur because of the increase in blended families, remarriages and because of the media publicity from celebrities’ contested wills.
STEP Members In The Bournemouth Area
STEP’s vision is to be recognised globally as setting the standard for wills and probate, for advising families across generations. Founded in 1991, STEP now represents 22,000 practitioners across 95 countries.
The Bournemouth branch of STEP lists 135 members. Some of them are based outside the Bournemouth, Poole, Christchurch BH postcode area. Some are in Blandford, Dorchester, Weymouth and other DT postcodes; others are further afield in Southampton, Eastleigh and Salisbury.
Members are committed to upholding the standards of the profession and to working together for the benefit of their clients.
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Get Expert Legal Advice On Wills And Probate
Contact STEP solicitor Kerry Hay for expert legal advice on wills, probate, Inheritance Tax planning, powers of attorney, trusts and Court of Protection matters. She is based at our Fleetsbridge office.