A new survey has revealed over half (54%) of people are still turning to a solicitor or law firm to prepare their will.
On the other hand, less than a quarter (23%) are utilising a specialist will writer, be it a company or an individual.
Some 6,300 law firms across the UK are offering will writing services as of October 2022. While this is a decline of 300 from figures seen in October 2020, IRN Legal Reports – who conducted the survey of 616 adults – say this simply reflects the general decrease in the number of law firms, with many closing or merging with others.
While law firms continue to dominate the market, IRN suggested it’s one that is increasingly “crowded” given the number of providers in this space.
As the wills market is not regulated, barriers to entry are low and new entrants can join the sector relatively easily. In recent years, IT-enabled start-ups such as Bequeathed and Farewill have entered the market. The latter business has grown to become a £5 million-plus turnover business in just a few years.
The overwhelming majority of businesses offering will writing and probate services are small businesses and some sole traders, but the leading volume players are increasing their market share. Some of the leading players include Co-op Legal Services, Irwin Mitchell, Slater & Gordon, and Which?Wills.
According to IRN, the key participants operating in the broader market are as follows:
- Law firms and solicitors offering will, trust, and probate services.
- Independent will writing companies and individuals.
- Established online will writing services primarily offering wills, LPA, and probate templates for DIY packages.
- Recent start-up online services offering innovative will writing and probate services working closely with law firms, will writers and charities.
- Barristers who may aid with will writing and engage in contested wills and probate cases.
- Financial advisers (independent and restricted adviser providers) offering trust and tax planning services including estate management and will writing. These include advisers working for leading banks, building societies, insurance companies and other financial services institutions. Financial companies offering will writing and probate services usually operate white-labelled services operated by a partner, typically a law firm or a will writing company.
- Legal executives.
Regarding online will writing companies, IRN identified at least 40 to 50 pure-play online will writing services in the UK. Most offer simple wills that can be written by an individual online in a few minutes at prices that are well below those charged by law firms and professional will writers. Many also offer DIY LPA and probate services and some will offer checking of the DIY documents by a legal professional for an additional cost.