Opinion: Discounted wills: a great deal or a costly venture?

Euan Fleming, Partner and Head of Private Clients at Gilson Gray

By Euan Fleming, Partner and Head of Private Clients at Gilson Gray

DIGITAL convenience is something we have all taken advantage of over the last 16 months. And in a professional setting too, the necessity for businesses to digitalise their services was never more pressing than in 2020.

A rapid migration to online has undoubtedly prompted many organisations to modernise outdated practices – we’ve seen banks using artificial intelligence and many GP’s have implemented video consultations or online booking systems. But, with a new, endless pool of companies and little to no vetting, serious concerns have been raised about the legitimacy of many digital services.

For me, I share these concerns, particularly when it comes to drafting a will.

In the legal industry, the rise of ‘coupon’ wills – available on widely used discount sites for as little as £14 – has resulted in a sharp rise in botched wills. As a result, seasoned private client practitioners are seeing a corresponding increase in requests to help sort wills out properly.

The biggest of the discount sites has been a middleman between businesses and consumers for nearly eight years, and has paved the way for a new cohort of discounted will writing services.

With an advertised saving of up to 86%, purchasing a couponed will-writing service can be tempting but, in reality, these wills just don’t stand up.

The most common issue is that these types of services usually offer a universal approach, with little to no personalisation. We’ve also seen instances of them being signed incorrectly, or conducted by someone completely underqualified.

It’s a common misconception that, as long as it is all down on paper and its signed, there’s not much that can go wrong when in fact, having no will at all can be less damaging than having one that hasn’t been put together correctly.

It is not uncommon for clients with documentation from coupon sites to pay more than four times the original cost to get everything in order from a legal perspective and, for many, this process often has to take place while they are grieving.

Like every other business this year, we’ve made changes so we can continue to serve the needs of our clients while also looking after our employees. If they choose to, our clients are now able to benefit from a fully digital experience, and we’ve seen a great deal of interest from time-conscious young professionals who value being able to fit in a quick consultation over lunch.

However, what we never compromise on is personalisation. Taking the time to get to know a client and having an understanding of their assets is really key in the practice, so that we can safeguard their future. Any good practitioner will not only provide you with a ‘sunshine and rainbows’ scenario, but will also look flag any potentially problematic areas and allow you to plan ahead.

The digitalisation of services is nothing to be afraid of in the legal sphere.  We should be taking advantage of increased accessibility in will writing, and other legal practices. However, the prospect of heavily discounted wills, and indeed any legal service, has to be met with caution – we must consider the long-term financial and emotional implications when choosing the appropriate solicitor.

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