Wills and probate market tops £2bn with contentious work on the rise

Wills: More DIY efforts

The value of the wills, trusts and probate market topped £2bn for the first time last year, with contentious work on the rise, new research has found.

However, it also highlighted how law firms’ grip on will-writing work continues to slip.

The UK Wills, Probate & Trusts Market Report 2022, produced by IRN Research, recorded strong growth over the past year and that it would continue over the next few, with the market expected to reach a value of £2.4bn by 2025.

The market was split fairly evenly between will writing, probate, estate management, guardianship and other work.

IRN said: “The demand for will-writing services plus will updates is likely to increase and the availability of new digital services may encourage more adults to make a will.

“Probate and estate administration work is going to increase in the short term due to a growing number of deaths in the pandemic, and more adults who are likely to die intestate without a will.”

This would in turn lead to more litigation, and IRN said the number of firms offering advice for contentious wills, probate and trusts has more than doubled since 2018 to 646.

There was also growing demand for related services, such as funeral planning, future care planning, and bereavement services.

“More firms are offering a holistic approach with a broader range of services to deal with all aspects of estate planning and preparing for changes in later life,” IRN said.

In 2020, probate applications from individuals represented over 40% of all applications for the first time rather than professional advisors, which researchers said was a reflection of the difficulties of reaching some solicitors in the pandemic and the availability of an online option for grants of representation.

Further, a consumer survey IRN conducted last year found that 52% of individuals with a will used a solicitor to draft it, down from 56% the previous year, while the proportion who drafted their own rose to 12%. Another 19% turn to a specialist will writer.

“Covid may have had some impact here with individuals considering a will but trapped at home and using an online service,” the survey acknowledged. Another 6% started to draft the will themselves but then used a professional advisor.

Over three-quarters of law firms surveyed saw increases in both workloads and revenues in the previous year, the highest percentage since the survey began in 2016. Eight out of 10 were also confident about the year ahead and are expecting increased workloads.

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