A little about me...

How does anyone end up talking about death and dying for a living, let alone go on to set up their own business as an estate planner?

Most people tend to become estate planners after a background in financial or legal services. My route was somewhat different.

When I left school I started my career as a support worker for adults with severe physical and learning disabilities. I did that for about 8 years, getting promoted so by the time I left to have my first son I was running a residential care home.

Whilst my boys were tiny I worked part-time as a home help whilst also studying for an Open University Degree, in Technology of all things. Serious juggling skills required there. When my youngest started school I then did voluntary work supporting parents of under 5s, followed by voluntary and paid work acting as an advocate and mentor for those in foster care and care leavers.

After that I switched to the opposite end of the age spectrum! I worked in retirement housing, managing several rented and leasehold locations myself and also overseeing a team of other managers. 

I absolutely loved that job.

Basically it was like being an estate agent, social worker, accountant and team leader all in one. I got to let flats, manage the building repairs and budgets, deal with tenant’s support needs, rent arrears and anti-social behaviour. It was a real eye-opener. There’s an assumption that older people don’t misbehave. But I can assure you that if someone is an alcoholic, a drug user,  prone to violent outbursts or promiscuity, they don’t magically stop just because they are drawing their pension!

sarah mcguire, patron wills, kent

Sarah McGuire,
Founder of Patron Wills

It was fascinating to hear people’s stories about their lives, their loves, their interests, and realise there was so much more to a person than we would normally see.

  • The curmudgeonly gentleman who suddenly talked openly about the loss of his wife 40 years before, whose grave he still visits weekly and who can never be replaced.
  • The woman whose adultery resulted in her children refusing to contact her for 50 years, until a recent thawing of feelings.
  • People who had lost children and the hurt they still carried around inside, but who still insisted that “there’s people worse off than me”.
  • The frustration people felt in having to let others do little things for them.
  • The loss of independence
  • The fear of being a burden.

 

However, though I loved my housing career, opportunities for promotion were limited, and after 12 years, I grew restless.

Around 3 years ago I was talking to one of my tenants. It turns out she still worked part-time as an estate planner and she told me what it entailed. It seemed to dovetail nicely both with my previous paid and voluntary experience, my interests, my skills in relating to people from all walks of life, and my ability to empathise with the things that they may be worrying about.

So I completed a course, took an exam and qualified as a will-writer. For about 18 months I did both the estate planning and housing jobs part-time. However, in February  2020, I made the leap into full-time self-employment.

Helping clients explore their wishes...

Typically, my clients are in their 50s before they go ahead with sorting their will. Usually, they say “they’ve been meaning to get their will sorted for years.” 

Maybe they’ve put if off because they think they’ll tempt fate by discussing death or they think the conversation with me will be depressing. They come to me hesitantly sometimes, perhaps ashamed to admit they don’t get on with their children and don’t want to leave them anything in their will. There’s a palpable sense of relief when I explain they certainly aren’t alone in this. Truth be told, around a third of the people I see have at least one person they want to exclude from their will.

Another huge concern they come to me with is loss of independence and having to rely on others, plus being able to trust their wishes will be respected.

For my clients there is peace to be found in airing and resolving these things. The conversations aren’t, for the most part, upsetting. In fact, the vast majority of them are hilarious. In fact, I’m known for my catchphrase “putting the fun back into dying!”

Clients tell me that drawing up their will or lasting power of attorney with me has lifted a weight off their mind, which in turn gives me great satisfaction. Fear that the process would be complex or stressful has been replaced with relief that their wishes will be honoured if they pass away or lose capacity.

Truly, where there’s a will there’s a way.

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