A new study has revealed traditional law firms and solicitors remain the most popular option for consumers in the wills and probate market.
Specifically, 54% turned to a lawyer for their will in 2023, though this has slipped slightly from 56% in 2020 and 55% in 2018 and 2019 according to IRN Legal, conductors of the study.
Perhaps explaining this slight reduction is the emergence of specialist will writing services and individuals: their use increased from 19% of consumers in 2019 and 2020 to 23% – nearly one in four – in 2023. The below graph highlights use of law firms and solicitors by each age group:
Advisers at banks, building societies, accountants, or other financial services were used by 5%.
8% decided to write their wills themselves – down from 12% pre-pandemic. This comes despite an increasing range of online options enabling “DIY wills”. 4% started the process themselves before turning to a professional for help. IRN Legal said the “relatively low cost” of using lawyers for most wills “may be a factor behind the limited interest in DIY wills.”
How consumers chose their provider
IRN Legal’s report said 38% simply returned to the solicitor or firm they’d used beforehand for their will – up from 33% in 2019.
A recommendation by a friend was the second most popular route with 19% of consumers using this method of choice. This rises to 47% in younger age groups (25-34-year-olds).
10% were persuaded by a charity – up from 7% in 2018. Just 8% used a search engine to find a provider, though this rises to over 20% of 18-24-year-olds. Only 2% used price comparison sites.
The cost of a will
According to the study, fixed fees dominated with almost eight in 10 paying on this basis, a trend consistent with studies pre-pandemic. 71% of these clients agreed a fee at the start and paid it at the end. Just 5% were charged a higher fee at the end than what was agreed, up from 13% in 2020. Traditional hourly fees are now seen in just 3% of cases.
In 2023, the percentage of adults taking advantage of a free will offer increased to almost one in five (19%), up from 10% in 2018. For those that paid, the prices were as follows:
- 51% paid up to £100 (39% in 2020 and 41% in 2019)
- 27% paid between £101 and £200 (30% in 2020 and 28% in 2019)
- 16% paid between £201 and £500 (22% in 2020 and 19% in 2019)
- 6% paid more than £500 (9% in 2020 and 10% in 2019)
The median cost of a will was £100, a marginal decrease from £110-£115 in the previous survey.
IRN Legal’s study found take-up of related services connected to the will writing process remains limited, with just 32% using such services – down from 39% in 2020.
The most popular additional service is a power of attorney, taken up by 15%. Will storage services are used by 11%, though this does not include those with free will storage. Funeral plans were taken up by 9%.
IRN Legal said some clients might be encouraged to pay for probate and estate administration services in advance but only 4% did so, down from 8% in 2019.
Advice on tax planning was used by 3% though this rises to 15% where household income is £100,000 or more.
Charitable bequests and digital legacies
The study also revealed a rise in the number of people leaving a donation to charity in their will, with 24% now saying they’ve either left a charitable bequest in their will or plan to do so when they make a will. This is up from just 19% in 2018.
A similar rise is seen in the number of people leaving details of what should happen to their digital legacy or who should deal with it, rising to 35% from 27% in 2018.