Thursday, 9 November 2017

"You can't take it with you"... 25 years of creating software for writing Wills

25 years ago, I had a call from a friend of my Mum's, David Holloway.  David explained that he was leaving teaching to start a business selling "Will writing software" and could I help him to create an easy-to-use system for solicitors and professional Will writers.  I thought he was mad - who would want to buy that? - but 25 years later I'm still involved in the fascinating world of the Will-writer.

Matthew Mitchell's excellent new book - buy it from Amazon
I worked with David to create Will Writer for Windows, the first ever Will-writing product for the Windows operating system.  Not all of our potential customers thought that Windows would "catch on" by the way... 25 years is a long time ago!!  We used to sell it via classified ads in the back of computer magazines - "The only software to pay for itself time and again!".

Will Writer for Windows sold well and so we started a business called Legacy Partners with one of our first software users, Arthur Galloway, selling Will-writer training and franchises across the country.  The franchisees received a laptop with Will Writer for Windows and software to manage their leads and clients, all with an automated back-end system to process orders and commission.  The printing and binding of Wills was done from my new office in Bridgnorth with our baby son Connor in a carrycot under the desk. You could almost guarantee that he would cry when the phone rang from a Will-writer with a query!

One of our first Legacy Partner trainees was an ex-mining engineer called Clive Ponder.  Clive instantly stood out as being incredibly capable and determined to build a successful business.  17 or so years later and Clive's Countrywide Will and Trust businesses are the biggest in the UK and we are proud to be writing Will and office administration software for him still.

The final chapter (for now!) of this story is the book in the photo.  Clive introduced me to Matthew Mitchell, a dynamic and talented financial-advisor-turned-estate-planner who is also building significant businesses in Will writing and estate planning under the Legacy Legal brand.  We're now working with Matthew and his colleagues to create systems and software to help him to work alongside Countrywide and attract consultants to join him.

It's a been a truly enthralling story, enabling me to meet some fascinating people along the way.  From the earliest Windows development tools (Borland Objectvision and Microsoft Visual Basic) through to 2017's most sophisticated web & mobile software builder - Alpha Anywhere - the journey has kept me interested for 25 years.  Do buy Matthew's book by the way (it has a forward from Clive) - it's one of the best introductions to estate planning you can read.

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