No complacency for Wills draftsmen
I have just come across a report by Steve Brooker for the National Consumer Council (http://bit.ly/gPNLEI) which identifies the way in which changes in society are revealing a number of gaps in our inheritance laws which must be plugged by making a Will. However, the report (which is essential reading) highlights that the very people who should be making a Will often are the group least likely to do so.
A staggering comment is made in the introduction to the report:
“Those without a Will represent at least £250 million of untapped business. Despite this, most high street solicitors tend not to actively market their will writing services.”
Is this true of your firm? A quick Google search of the term ‘will writing’ found no solicitors’ firm on the first page. Try ‘Will writing service’ instead and the first page has much of the same players and again no lawyers. If you put ‘will writers’ in the search engine instead: the same problem – no solicitors.
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I suspect if you scan the local newspapers that will writing is advertised directly as such by non-solicitor providers but law firms tend to advertise their firm rather than a particular service. What this report highlights is that there is a lucrative market out there it just doesn’t know you offer the specific service they are looking for – you need to be direct!
Equally the research paper says:
“There is a need to try creative approaches, such as prompting people to make a Will following important life events – such as having children, buying a home, suffering bereavement – when the consequences of dying without a Will becomes more serious.”
I have no doubt that most firms would certainly advise their clients of the need to do this (if not, why on earth not) but we do need to reach out to those who do not have a solicitor and try and raise awareness of this unmet need.
Who has a Will?
Interestingly, 36% of the respondents had a Will, so a little more than perhaps most of us would have thought, leaving 64% intestate. As you would expect those who have made a Will tend to be older with 70% of the 65+ age group having a Will compared to only 3% in the 16-24 age group.
I suppose it is a concern that over 25% of those in the 65+ age group do not have a Will. Those of you developing your skills in Elderly Client matters will be sure to use Will drafting as a way into the more holistic range of services which the elderly require such as LPAs and care planning.
The report indicated that social class was a clear indicator of those who had made a Will – 70% in socio-economic category AB had a Will compared to 27% in category DE. Similarly 39% of White respondents had a Will whilst just 12% of Black & Minority Ethnic respondents had one.
Widows are most likely to have a Will – 68%; whilst single people were the least likely – 12%. A shocking 17% of cohabitants had a Will yet we all know the impact of intestacy there. Strangely, too, those with children living with them were half as likely to have a Will than those who did not have children in the household – 21% compared to 42%.
The predominant reason for not making a Will at 42% was simply that the person had not got around to it, closely followed by those who had never thought about it. Only a tiny percent were put off by the potential cost.
Who to go to?
74% of the respondents in the survey had used a solicitor to prepare their Will. 15% (equivalent to 2.3 million people) used an alternative provider, of which 8% said they used a ‘specialist will-writing firm’.
Unfortunately for solicitors only 59% of respondents thought it likely they would consider using a solicitor in the future, which does not auger well for the profession. Why might this be? Cost does not seem to be the issue if the other findings are correct. Some Will writers will say it is our attitude towards the client; other providers might say it is the lack of use of technology to collect information easily and directly via the web as part of the process (perhaps this is true of busy working people and the younger market segment.)
The risk of raising the issue (of the importance of making a Will) is I suppose the likelihood that a person will shop around quite rightly for the best or most suitable terms for them. This means that other more visible offerings from other suppliers particularly household names such as Co-Operative Legal Services, AA and SAGA, will inevitably make a dent in the solicitor’s market share.
Of course what is offered by each of these companies is likely to be a service which is supervised or even prepared by a lawyer, just not necessarily in the usual way by a high street practitioner. For a law firm to be on the ‘books’ of an operator like the AA or SAGA would require significant investment in IT and customer care standards.
Cost does not seem to be a detriment but on the basis that £75-150 is about the average which the Law Society and a sample of solicitors gave as the cost. For some years one of the Will Writing organisation used to publish the average price of a Will prepared by their members and this was something in the region of £ 575.
There is a clear message for the legal profession from this report:
- We must target our Will drafting services at those who are not existing clients of the firm as well as those who are.
- We must make it clear who needs a Will.
- We must have easy to use Will drafting services.
- We must advertise Will drafting services separately from other services offered by the firm or from simply generic advertising of the firm.
- We must be transparent on cost.
© Gill Steel LawSkills Ltd
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