Six out of 10 consumers are unaware that will-writers are unregulated, although many people are interested in writing their own wills anyway, new research has found.
The survey also revealed that 80% of consumers are charged fixed fees for wills, although only 68% actually paid the fee quoted at the start of the process.
Most consumers (55%) went to solicitors for their wills and there was fairly strong consumer loyalty, with 43% returning to a law firm they had used in the past.
The Wills & Probate Consumer Research Report 2018, by IRN Research and Orchard Reports, surveyed 1,034 consumers, among them 379 that had made a will and 291 that had been involved in estate administration.
“Fixed fees now dominate the wills market and traditional fee models used by law firms and solicitors, notably fees based on hourly rates, have all but disappeared,” researchers said.
Fixed fees were also widely used in estate administration, with 47% of consumers charged a fixed fee and only 9% hourly rates.
Only 19% of consumers went to will writers. Of those, 61% were unaware that will writers were unregulated – confusion that could get worse when solicitors are allowed to practise from unregulated firms from April 2019.
Half (51%) of those polled said they thought will-writers should be regulated, a move rejected by the government in 2013.
There was widespread interest in DIY will writing, with 68% saying they would be happy to prepare a will themselves if it kept costs down.
A small number of consumers (3%) tried to produce a DIY will, but ended up having to call in a solicitor or will writer.
The use by DIY will writers of websites offering advice and document downloads was surprisingly small. Only a third used these sites, while 60% managed to create a will for free.
There was very limited use of internet searches to find a legal adviser. Only 9% of consumers used this method, while 15% relied on recommendations from family or friends.
Satisfaction rates for the services provided by legal advisers was high, with eight out of 10 consumers either satisfied or very satisfied.
The highest satisfaction rates were for explanation of the will-writing process and quality of service, followed by helpfulness and friendliness of staff and explanation of fees.
“A core strength of the major traditional providers in the market, i.e. law firms and solicitors, is that these providers are the choice of most consumers making a will despite various other options being available, some of which are unregulated,” researchers said.
“Client loyalty is also relatively high, despite the use of legal services being an occasional one for most individuals, with many consumers going back to law firms and solicitors that they have used before.
“This may be one reason why no major brands have managed to take a hold of the market, as has been the case in personal injury and conveyancing for example: individuals return to law firms used before and many of these are local brands.”