Powers of attorney and “other guardianship advice” will lead the way as the wills and probate market continues to expand over the next few years, a report has predicted.
Researchers estimated that the size of the market has grown by 5.6% to £2.5bn since last year and would continue to grow by an average of 4.6% to 2026, when it would reach almost £3bn.
“An ageing population will underpin some growing demand for will writing but stronger demand for LPAs [lasting powers of attorney] and other guardianship advice.”
Despite a “lack of resources” at the Office of the Public Guardian after Covid, which had limited LPA processing, the planned recruitment of 100 new staff “should help to drive improvements in LPA processes and speed of administration”.
In its UK Wills, Probate and Trusts Market Report 2022, IRN Legal Reports said the number of applications to register a power of attorney in England and Wales had increased steadily until a dip during lockdown, but have now resumed their growth, by 12.5% in the first half of 2022.
“An ageing population, and more adults living longer, inevitably means more demand for other services as well such as living wills… funeral plans, and care plans.”
The forecasts on the size of the market were adjusted to include a larger share for the unregulated sector compared to previous reports.
While the “overwhelming majority” of businesses offering will writing and probate services were small businesses, the “leading volume players”, like Co-op Legal Services, Irwin Mitchell, Slater & Gordon and Which?Wills, were increasing their market share.
“In recent years, IT-enabled start-ups such as Bequeathed and Farewill have entered the market. The latter business has grown to become a £5m-plus turnover business in just a few years.”
Researchers said a survey of 616 consumers who used will-writing services this year found that 54% had used solicitors, a similar percentage to previous years.
Almost a quarter (23%) turned to a specialist non-lawyer will writer, either a company or an individual.
Researchers said they had identified “at least 40 to 50 pure-play online will writing services”, dedicated online services with their core business being the supply of online legal documents and templates.
“Most offer simple wills that can be written by an individual online in a few minutes at prices that are well below those charged by law firms and professional will writers.
“Many also offer DIY LPA and probate services and some will offer checking of the DIY documents by a legal professional for an additional cost.
“Some financial institutions offer online will writing while many insurance policies and pension packages include the opportunity to complete a DIY will online, and these latter wills are often provided free if you have taken out insurance or a pension.”
Researchers added that despite attempts to encourage younger adults to write a will and “Covid influencing some younger adults to consider a will”, it was “still individuals in older age groups that have the majority of wills”.
Contentious wills, probate and trusts work is the area of practice that has seen the biggest growth, more than doubling since 2018.