Law firms “must recognise impact of online wills”

Shakh: More and more people will go online for their wills

Law firms must recognise that the market for wills is changing and that younger people are attracted by online wills, the founder of will-writing software firm WillSuite has warned.

Seb Shakh made the comments as his company published its first ever survey of 50,000 wills drafted using the software last year, which found that the average age of testators was 58.

“Unless law firms do something about it, more and more people will go online for their wills, rather than going to them,” Mr Shakh said.

Included in the research was a comment from Dan Garrett, chief executive of online company Farewill, one of the country’s biggest will-writers. Mr Garrett said the average age of Farewill’s customers was 12 years younger than at traditional firms.

“We’re a great fit for time-poor first time will writers – who typically are relatively new parents and homeowners.”

Mr Shakh said: “People like Farewill are changing the market. It would be good for law firms to recognise this. Some of them won’t change until it hits them in the face.”

He said WillSuite had used AI techniques to find out why 10.7% of testators specifically excluded people from their wills. Men were 14% more likely than women to be excluded.

Almost half of testators (47%) said the exclusion was the result of ‘lack of contact’, followed by the break-up of romantic relationships (18%). Other popular reasons were disputes with the person involved, and the fact the person was already provided for or financially independent.

Mr Shakh said it would have been impossible for WillSuite to have manually categorised the thousands of reasons given for exclusions.

Wills made up almost two-thirds of documents drafted by WillSuite (63.5%), followed by property and financial lasting powers of attorney (19%) and health and welfare LPAs (17%). Living wills made up only 0.4% of the total.

A narrow majority of testators (52%) appointed their partner as sole executor, while 9% appointed a professional to act in some capacity. The average age of non-professionals written into wills was 48.

Mr Shakh added that he launched a new company last autumn, Love Legal, to enable law firms to offer purely online wills and powers of attorney, either through the Love Legal brand or their own.

He said he hoped to include data from Love Legal in next year’s WillSuite survey, which would enable the market for online wills to be compared to the more traditional one.

    Readers Comments

  • Gwen Barton says:

    Online Wills are basic and any complicated requirements are really not catered for? If you get any of the wording wrong it could mean month’s of problems and having to hire a Solicitor to try to rectify the problems!? Costly! However, having my first Will drawn up by my Banks “Wills, Trust and Taxation Dept,” l was happy with the resulting Will. Time moves on & situations change!? I needed a new Will! Expected to be able to use my Banks Service again? As with many Banks those Services have been withdrawn!? Had a Solicitor write my Will! Not impressed!? The detail l needed was not there! I didn’t feel it was worth the paper it was written on or the monies l had paid for it!?
    Where do people go from here?
    I personally feel the Banks have let people down in this area of expertize!
    Another Company insists you speak to someone over the phone to make your Will?
    Not ideal?
    You cannot ask the pertinent questions about what is an extremely important Document!
    All the systems in place at this point in time give me very little confidence in being able to have my Will written to a high standard!?

  • Sue Saines says:

    I agree with all the points made by Gwen Barton. As a former solicitor I now offer my Willwriting services under the IPW. Just this week I have seen 2 wills drafted by solicitors one of which didn’t reflect the client instructions, has not been signed and no ID taken and yet they had enclosed their very hefty invoice for work left incomplete. The second had taken instructions over the telephone and appointed a firm as executors and trustees and the client hadn’t realised the implications. This same firm drafted LPA’s over the telephone and sent them to the client to register. The client not appreciating she could not use them until they were validated is now in a cancer unit with weeks to live. Some SRA regulated firms would appear not to be superior auto an unregulated organisation.

  • paul Wheeler says:

    Dear Gwen
    I’m sorry that you had a poor experience with a solicitor to prepare your new will. You should take this up with the firm and ensure that you have a will prepared which meets your circumstances and (to the extent possible) follows your wishes. A good solicitor will assess your estate and family circumstances; listen to and understand your requirements; discuss them with you face to face; prepare a draft for your approval and explain its terms properly and then and only after you have approved it sign it. The likely cost of preparing your will should be disclosed at an early stage but sometimes this is not possible until the full extent of your wishes and estate is known.
    I hope you have a better experience soon.
    Paul Wheeler solicitor

  • John Welch says:

    I work as a forensic document examiner and I am well aware that wills are disputed and may be extremely contentious. Documents stored as images on a computer cannot be examined in the detail that is possible with a paper document. Potentially, forgery of signatures and alterations to details may escape detection when the computer image is all that is available to examine. Also, research by psychologists has shown that when faced with the prospect of signing a real document people are more likely to be honest that when they simply need to click on screen.

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