IRN Legal Report: Steady year-on-year growth ahead and more digestion on way

The UK Wills, Probate & Trusts Market Report 2023 is the 10th edition of an annual research report from IRN Legal Reports.

In 2023, the wills, trusts and probate market had an estimated value of £2.6bn, increasing by 5.4% on the 2022 value.

Most wills written are relatively simple ones. This means that the core wills market is showing only limited growth and much of the growth in the market is coming from wills advice relating to more complicated wills, probate and powers of attorney (POA) advice services, along with the contentious wills, probate and trusts services.

The number of UK law firms offering will writing services in October 2023 numbered 6,137 but the firm population is declining and slipped by 8.2% between October 2020 and October 2023. Most of those offering will writing services are likely to offer probate advice as well. The majority of firms offering the above services will be offering wills and probate advice as part of a portfolio of advice services across a range of practice areas. There are some volume players, some specialists, and some focusing on high net worth individuals.

While total firm numbers are declining, the number of firms in England and Wales offering advice for contentious wills, probate and trusts has been increasing year-on-year.

In 2022, grants of representation issued in England and Wales fell to 269,807 from 273,554 in 2021. In the first half of 2023 there has been a further decrease of 7.7% on the same period in 2022.

However, applications for grants of representation increased by 3.2% in 2022 to 292,184 and there have been year-on-year increases since 2018. Some of these applications will have followed pandemic deaths. Delays in processing applications is impacting on the number of successful probate completions.

The trend since 2017 has been for the number of applications to register a power of attorney (POA) in England and Wales to increase. By 2022, there were almost 852,000 applications increasing by 19.1% on the 2021 figure of 715,119. Double-digit growth in applications continued in 2023.

Market value growth in 2024 is expected to reach a similar level to 2023: growth of 5% is forecast. The market will see the arrival of digital POAs following the Powers of Attorney Act plus e-wills are on the way. Will writing remains unregulated but the sector is being investigated again by the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) along with the market for pre-paid probate plans (also unregulated).

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