Synopsis of this research report

  • This report explores the online will writing market.
  • Consumer and market insight was conducted via nationally representative online surveys, market analysis of online will writers and mystery shops of key players.
  • Findings and conclusions highlight what FSE considers to be good and poor practice.
  • Initially framed by a small number of in-depth interviews with different provider types, findings have been tested and shared with independent expert stakeholders and consumer groups MoneyAdviceService and Fairer Finance.
  • This paper is valuable for organisations thinking of offering online wills to its customers, will writers themselves, media, consumer influencers, and anyone seeking to better understand this market sector.
  • The paper sets out why recent market shifts present potential issues for consumers, reputational risks for businesses and views on how risks could be mitigated.

Will writing market context

  • The unregulated end-of-life legal services landscape, like other sectors, has changed recently because either consumer attitudes have changed due to covid or through new super simplistic offerings from new entrants.
  • Online will writing propositions are provided by a variety of agents; new online players, established mixed channel businesses and high street players.
  • Our findings suggest market developments both potentially raise the bar in terms of customer experience but also potentially places customers at risk of poor outcomes.

Market and consumer insight synopsis

1. Online Will writing market study

Funeral Solution Expert conducted analysis of 25 online will writing firms and a deep dive of 16 providers including a mystery shop of the vast majority (we do not name them within this report).
The report explores the following areas:

  • Model types, regulatory status, heritage and expertise.
  • Positioning and key messages.
  • Product and service costs.
  • Proposition features.
  • Customer journey, user experience.
  • Additional services.
  • Construction of the will proposition.
  • Consumer risks.

2. Market insight headline findings

Initial observations included in this report

  • Market size of wills written in the UK including online wills.
  • Number of consumers that update their wills.
  • Types of will writers characterised in four segments and different methodologies observed.
  • How some position themselves and questionable marketing claims.
  • How raising the experience bar makes it easier but also riskier for consumers.
  • Range of price and features and associated products and services.
  • Heritage and expertise of providers and a question of who is writing the will?

Additional analysis

  • How some test or fail to test for complex circumstances.
  • Hidden clauses that seek to protect online will writers from the proposition shortcomings: “who is taking the risk: the will writer or the consumer?”
  • How bold providers are in trying to secure probate business in advance.

3. Consumer insight

(Nationally representative sample, UK consumers March and April 2021)

  • Expectation consumers have of whether their will contains legal advice.
  • Awareness and confidence consumers have in understanding their own circumstances.
  • Reading (and understanding) small print.
  • Incidence of circumstances among UK adults which would suggest simple wills may not meet consumer’s needs.
  • Events that lead consumers to change or write a new will.

4. Conclusions and FSE recommendations

  • A will is an incredibly important document which decides the fate of almost all an individual’s wealth, property and possessions.
  • Yet it is a largely unregulated sector with little visibility for the consumer of the risks (of getting it wrong) and in the case of many wills being written online, limited checks for suitability.
  • The cost of online wills make them highly accessible.
  • Online wills unfortunately require a customer to look closely at the terms and conditions before being certain of the proposition risks and suitability.
  • Certain proposition elements let customers down from a value perspective.
  • Basic and important guidance can be absent from online wills.
  • The positioning of certain end-of-life product add-ons that can be beneficial, can end up being costly or lead to a hard sell from other firms.
  • We provide ten tips for consumers when considering an online will.