The average price of a standard will from a law firm has fallen from £124 to £118 over the last year, new research has indicated.
In a legal market briefing on wills and probate, IRN Research warned that the “highly competitive” market was likely to see even greater competition as accountants and chartered legal executives took advantage of their new practice rights to offer probate services.
“Perhaps more than any other legal market, except maybe conveyancing, the wills market does offer opportunities for brands to take a greater market share.
“Wills, unlike most other legal purchases, are not a distress purchase so potential purchasers can be targeted on a regular basis with some success.
“There are now a number of recognisable consumer and financial services brands already in the market, with large memberships or customer databases to turn to offer will writing and probate services.
“The Cooperative, Saga, and Which? are the main examples and we are likely to see more investment in advertising and marketing from these brands in the future.”
As an example of other established brands exploring the market, researchers mentioned First4Lawyers, which had “already diversified into the wills sector” and predicted that a few others would follow that lead.
“Pressure on traditional providers is also coming from consumers themselves particularly with probate where more individuals each year are undertaking estate administration without the help of a professional advisor.
“This will continue to persuade more providers to offer a fixed fee, i.e. set fee, for estate administration to try and halt this DIY trend. It is estimated that around 10% to 15% of adults prepare their own wills and this percentage has changed very little in the last few years.”
The report said the prices of wills varied considerably, depending on the complexity of the estate and whether it covered estate administration from start to finish.
Firms offered a range of fixed-fee options, taking into account either the complexity of the estate or the amount of work required.
However, some providers offered a “one-price fixed fee” for relatively simple estates. A survey of 20 law firms, 20 will writers and 20 online will-writing companies found that average prices were £118 for solicitors, £86 for will-writers – an increase of £2 on the previous year – and £45 for online companies, up by a pound.
The report stressed that most adults, between 55% and 60%, did not have a will. This changed only as individuals “reached their later years”, with 70% of the 60 and over age group having made a will, and 80% of those aged over 70.
It found that there were no precise figures on the number of wills written per year, but estimates suggested that it was somewhere between 1.2m and 1.5m.