Posted by Pippa Shepherd, head of customer engagement at Legal Futures Associate Arken.legal
Research published recently by IRN estimated the wills and probate market as worth £1.3bn, forecasting growth to £1.7bn by 2024. It also found that 12% of those completing a will did it themselves without any professional help, a figure that increases the younger the consumer is.
The last few years has seen a rise in the number of providers offering online wills, with varying price points and discounts. There is a lot of price competition, not only between offline will drafting but also online. These tend to be either a basic template with gaps to complete or a comprehensive set of questions that get sent to a professional for drafting – so not a full online will solution.
In our experience, offering an online will solution is important for several reasons:
Customer retention – either as an option for clients who have just bought a house or have a change in personal circumstances such as a divorce, or as a loss leader for generating interest in other services. It can also be used as a lead generator for more complex instructions and allows you to focus on the more valuable opportunities.
Revenue growth – online wills represent a very low cost of client acquisition and with appropriate marketing, can drive revenue with very little interaction.
Future-proofing your business – as demand grows, a growing portion of the potential marketplace will look elsewhere if you do not offer online wills. They can also help burnish your brand as one that is forward-thinking, modern and digital. With consumers used to having choice these days, an online will option also ensures you are offering a wide range of services to suit any need or buying preference.
Accessing new markets – especially during Covid-19, consumers are looking for a quick, yet comprehensive, option for self-service or checked wills they can do online. Millennials, for example, are well versed with technology, are gaining assets, getting married and having children, and are used to buying with impulse and instant gratification, so offering an online will option for their normally straightforward instructions is key.
As their trusted adviser, existing clients are more likely to use and trust your online solution than those that are new to the market with few credentials.
During Covid-19, there are additional reasons for offering online wills. Everyone is more conscious of their mortality and what would happen if they got the virus.
The vast majority of our clients are seeing an increase in demand for wills, along with other documents such as general powers of attorney – as they don’t require registration like lasting powers of attorney – and advance decisions, which are helpful for getting your medical wishes directly in front of a medical professional.
Whereas in normal times, people can procrastinate over their requirements, they are now looking for a solution that delivers peace of mind quickly. Pandemics and lockdown make all of us worry more and it is sad but true that to know their affairs are in order and their loved ones will be looked after if they succumb to coronavirus can help reassure clients.
But you need to be sensitive and not be seen to take advantage of the situation by trying to push your business. You are helping people who want a solution and want it now. Your business growing also helps to keep our economy going at a time when it is grinding to a near-halt.
And we must ask ourselves, who is driving demand? Everyone is using technology more during lockdown and parents are turning to their children to find digital solutions for them. Many are immediately exploring online wills to finalise their key documents, as they cannot complete it in their usual way.
They may be more comfortable with knowing their usual adviser has checked it, or might have too complex a requirement but will see that you are offering remote instruction-taking as an alternative. Either way, you have an option available to them.
There are challenges to creating your own online wills product – the cost, ensuring it is of a high quality, making that mental leap to not check every will that is produced in your name. These can all be overcome by choosing the right solution, that fits with your brand and current quality of offer, and aligns with your other business processes.
In our experience, the success of any online will offering depends on how well you market it – if no one knows about it, they cannot use it. But given all of this, it is a strategic opportunity not just for now but to prepare for your future customer, the future way of buying, and the futureproofing of your private client practice.
A webinar on this subject can be found on the Arken.legal website.