Online will providers are 77% cheaper than solicitors on average, new research has found.
Nonetheless, it predicted that the value of wills and probate services is set to increase by £200m over the next five years to top £1.5bn by 2023.
This was even though the new price transparency rules being introduced by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and other regulators could “force many solicitors to lower their prices”.
The annual UK Wills, Probate & Trusts Market Report by IRN Research found that the average price (ex-VAT) charged by law firms for single wills was £180, compared to £131 for will-writing companies £131, and just £41 for online providers.
However, researchers found that more than six in ten consumers still used a solicitor to make a will and almost eight in ten for probate advice.
Price competitiveness was found not only in the market for wills, but in probate, where fixed fees were becoming more popular.
The report said a “clear trend in the last decade” had been a “steady increase” in the number of private individuals dealing with the grants of representation without legal assistance. This grew from just under 30% in 2007 to almost 38% by 2017.
“The perceived cost of solicitors, and the availability of online services to guide individuals through the process, have encouraged more adults to take on probate themselves.”
More broadly, IRN said that 64% of the law firms polled said their workload had increased in the past year and 60% said revenue had gone up. These figures were largely consistent with 2017 but a notable leap on 2016.
Optimism in the market was underlined by the 69% of firms expecting workload to grow.
The report predicted that new technology would make wills and probate services more profitable.
“Legal forms and precedents are being automated, reducing errors and delays, and cloud-based practice management solutions can consolidate documents on a single account reducing time-consuming reconciliations.
“The aim is for HMRC’s online probate service to be available for everyone at some point in 2019. In addition, wills will increasingly be stored digitally in the cloud, reducing storage costs and making access easier.
“This will become more practical in the future, given that the Law Commission has laid out plans to make England and Wales the first major jurisdiction in the world to allow electronic wills.”
IRN predicted that the market for wills, probate and trusts would grow “slowly and steadily” over the coming years, helped by the gradual rise in the number of deaths.