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UK Wills & Probate Market 2020: Consumer Research Report

  • ID: 5215000
  • Report
  • December 2020
  • Region: United Kingdom
  • 53 Pages
  • IRN Research

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Clear Consumer Interest in Virtual Consultations, Digital Probate Applications, and Online Court Proceedings

FEATURED COMPANIES

  • Bequeathed
  • Farewill
  • Kings Court Trust
  • Ministry of Justice (MoJ)
  • Shoosmiths
  • Slater & Gordon

The UK Wills & Probate Market 2020: Consumer Research Report is the third edition of this report offering insights into consumer behaviour, perceptions, brand awareness, and opinions. The report is based on responses from 2,093 adults (755 with a will, 568 been through probate).

The report benchmarks 2020 results with results in 2019 and 2018, and also includes detailed survey datasets in an Excel file.

Will writing is still an activity which most individuals fail to prioritize. It becomes of greater importance as consumers get older, and/or build up assets and this is reflected in the latest survey: as in previous years it is the older age groups - 55 and over - where will ownership is very high and will ownership in all age groups below 55 is much lower. Dealing with probate is also an activity that is largely the preserve of older adults. Law firms and solicitors are still used by a majority for both wills and probate advice, despite increased competition from others.

The above characteristics change very little from year to year but there are other changes taking place in the market led by a clear interest in online consultations, online probate applications, and online court hearings:   

  • COVID-19 has had a short-term impact but there are also longer-term effects that seem to have been accelerated by the pandemic. First, 4% of those making a will say that they were persuaded to do this as a response to the virus. Virtual consultations and online court hearings have become part of the legal process during the pandemic and feedback suggests that they are here to stay: over half of all consumers say that they would be happy to have a virtual consultation, and 40% would be willing to take part in online court proceedings, twice as many that would still prefer a physical court appearance.
  • Video witnessing of wills would be acceptable to over a third while over half would be willing to use the MoJ’s online probate portal in the future if they had to deal with straightforward probate. Already, almost a third of those involved in probate have used it.
  • Fixed fees now account for the overwhelming majority of fees paid in the wills market and almost half of probate fees as competition increases in both sectors.
  • This year there has also been some modest increase in the use of related services, for example advice on powers of attorney (POAs), living wills, and retirement planning. Plus, more consumers than in previous years across the overall sample express an interest in using these other services.  
  • While the sector is still populated by many small firms, four volume brands are well ahead of the pack in terms of consumer awareness: Cooperative Legal Services, Slater & Gordon, Irwin Mitchell, and Which Legal. Although some way behind these four, a relatively new entrant to the market - Bequeathed - is already in fifth place in terms of consumer awareness out of the 15 brands surveyed.    
  • Consumer confusion over regulation in the sector is still a major concern and the lack of understanding about the difference between regulated and unregulated providers has worsened in 2020: over six out of 10 consumers assume that the sector is regulated and the percentage confused about regulation has increased again in 2020 after increasing in 2019. This confusion is likely to be compromising consumer choice.

Questions asked covered the following topics:

  • Numbers currently with a will, when written, reasons for making a will
  • Reasons for not making a will, likelihood of making a will
  • Involvement in probate process, simplicity or otherwise of process
  • Use of executors, how chosen, private individuals or professionals
  • Any providers used for legal advice on wills, or DIY will preparation
  • Criteria for choosing and using will writing services
  • Satisfaction with services offered by legal providers/will writers
  • Final cost of services, payment methods
  • Inclusion of charitable donations and digital legacies in wills
  • Extent of DIY wills
  • Awareness and use of major will writing legal brands
  • Interest in digital wills
  • Likelihood of using video witnessing of wills
  • Likely methods used to find an advisor/will writing service
  • Understanding of regulations governing will writing and probate
  • Interest in additional services related to bereavement planning, longer life planning etc.
  • Professional advisors used for estate administration and fees charged
  • Satisfaction with professional advisors used
  • Interest in online consultations and online court proceedings
Note: Product cover images may vary from those shown

FEATURED COMPANIES

  • Bequeathed
  • Farewill
  • Kings Court Trust
  • Ministry of Justice (MoJ)
  • Shoosmiths
  • Slater & Gordon

1. Executive Summary

  • Overview
  • No change in the ownership of wills across the age groups
  • Law firms and solicitors are the main go-to source for wills advice
  • Almost half go back to a law firm/solicitor used before
  • Over 80% have appointed an executor turning mainly to private individuals
  • Client satisfaction is relatively high for most service features
  • Fixed fees continue to increase their share of the market
  • Five factors would be important to over 90% when choosing a will writer
  • Consumers remain unclear about regulation in the wills market
  • Some increase in use of related services, and more interest in these services
  • Solicitors are the best source for most but more interest in DIY wills
  • Awareness of will writing brands is stable, but use increasing
  • Probate is simple for a large majority of executors
  • Probate advisors are mainly law firms/solicitors, but a third used MoJ portal
  • Just like the wills market, probate advice is mainly delivered by law firms and solicitors
  • Fixed fees have become the main pricing option for probate services
  • Virtual consultations OK for most, and over a third happy with video witnessing

2. Introduction

  • Report coverage
  • Methodology

3. Background to the Wills Market

  • Fewer than 4 out of 10 have made a will
  • Making a will provides peace of mind
  • Those not making a will - is consumer apathy the problem?
  • Email/text completion of wills - more adults are becoming interested

4. Legal Advisors Used

  • Law firms and solicitors still take the largest share of the will writing market
  • Customer loyalty means largest group go back to a law firm used before
  • Most appoint executors for their will, and usually private individuals
  • Family members are the go-to choice as executors
  • Most of those involved in probate regard it as a simple process

5. The Will Writing Process

  • Apart from final fees, over 8 out of 10 are very satisfied or satisfied clients
  • Fixed fees increase their hold on the market, median fee £101 - £115
  • Small increase in use of some related services - majority still not using

6. DIY Will Writing

  • DIY wills still only used by a small percentage - fewer than 10% in 2020
  • Clear majority of DIY wills are free, over a third paid up to £20

7. Will Writing - Consumer Choices

  • Consumers looking for quality of service but at the right price
  • Most feel that solicitors are best qualified, interest in online-only wills growing
  • Increasing interest in services in related areas
  • Almost a third have put digital legacies in wills

8. Regulations, Will Writing Brands

  • Most consumers are still unaware that will writing is not regulated
  • Cooperative Legal and Slater & Gordon recognized by a majority of consumers
  • Virtual consultations OK for most, and over a third happy with video witnessing

9. Dealing with Estate Administration

  • Probate is a simple process for a clear majority
  • Probate advice mostly from law firms and solicitors
  • Fixed fees account for half of all probate advice fees
  • Almost half decided on do-it-yourself probate because it’s simple

10. Market Trends

List of Figures
Figure 1 Demographic breakdown of survey sample
Figure 2 Adults currently with or without a will (%)
Figure 3 Demographic breakdown of those with a will (%)
Figure 4 Time when the will was made, 2018-2020 (%)
Figure 5 Reasons for preparing a will, 2018-2020 (%)
Figure 6 Reasons for not preparing a will, 2018-2020 (%)
Figure 7 Likelihood of preparing an email/text will, 2018-2020 (%)
Figure 8 Options for preparing the will, 2018-2020 (%)
Figure 9 Methods of choosing a will writing service, 2018-2020 (%)
Figure 10 Individuals and commercial entities appointed as executors of wills (%)
Figure 11 Professional executor - reasons for not appointing, 2018-2020 (%)
Figure 12 Satisfaction with will writing services (%)
Figure 13 Payment method for the will writing service, 2018-2020 (%)
Figure 14 Final cost for the will writing service including VAT (number)
Figure 15 Other services used related to will writing, 2018-2020 (%)
Figure 16 Reasons for DIY wills, 2018-2020
Figure 17 Costs of DIY wills, 2018-2020 (%)
Figure 18 Importance of factors when choosing a will writing service (%)
Figure 19 Agreement with statements on will providers and DIY wills, 2018-2020 (%)
Figure 20 Planning for later life/bereavement - options of interest, 2018-2020 (%)
Figure 21 Charitable donations and digital legacies, 2018-2020 (%)
Figure 22 Charitable donations and digital legacies by age group, 2019-2020 (%)
Figure 23 Opinions on will writing market and regulation, 2018-2020 (%)
Figure 24 Awareness of selected legal brands offering will writing services (%)
Figure 25 Awareness/use of some legal brands offering will writing services, 2019-2020 (%)
Figure 26 Interest in remote consultations and court hearings (%)
Figure 27 Level of agreement with statements on the probate process, 2018-2020 (%)
Figure 28 Kind of professional/external advisor used, 2018-2020 (%)
Figure 29 Fee models for probate services, 2018-2020 (%)
Figure 30 Final fees paid, 2018-2020 (%)
Figure 31 Experiences of those administrating estates, 2018-2020 (%)
Figure 32 Trends in grants of representation in England and Wales, 2014-2019

Note: Product cover images may vary from those shown

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  • Bequeathed
  • Clarke Willmott
  • Cooperative Legal Services
  • Farewill
  • Irwin Mitchell
  • Kings Court Trust
  • Mills & Reeve
  • Ministry of Justice (MoJ)
  • Redstone Wills
  • Shoosmiths
  • Simpson Millar
  • Slater & Gordon
  • Taylor Rose
  • Thompsons
  • Which Legal
Note: Product cover images may vary from those shown

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