Planning for the future

02 November 2021

There has never been a bad time to write a will, but given the tumultuous period we’ve all been living through, it appears that many of us who were thinking about writing a will have decided there is no time like the present. With evidence mounting of a will writing boom, Legal & General commissioned a survey to uncover how COVID-19 has changed the way we think about wills, whether the age profile of a testator (a person who makes and executes a will) has changed, and why exactly this will writing trend is occurring. Are we reflecting more deeply about mortality?

We discovered:

  • More than a fifth (22%) of respondents aged 16-24 strongly agreed that their perspective had changed on will writing since the pandemic. This was the highest percentage of any age group.

  • Of those who have updated their will, 18% of young people (aged 16-24) said they did so after falling ill from COVID-19.

  • 15% of respondents in the 16-24 age group who’ve made a will have left assets to their pets – the highest of any age category.

  • 64% of people in Northern Ireland do not have a will in place – higher than any other region.

  • Overall, more people don’t have a will (53%) than those who do (47%). There was a gender divide: among men, 53% have a will compared to 47% who don’t, whereas 41% of women have a will, and 59% don’t.

Forever young

Traditionally, many people take out wills later in life when there is a greater likelihood they will have financial dependents and assets to protect. In fact, 47% of respondents told us that the most important reason for writing a will is to leave assets to the right beneficiaries – this was the most frequently cited reason in our survey.

But in these unprecedented times, the old assumptions about when you should take out a will have been challenged like never before. In 2020, Farewill, the will writing service, saw a 267% rise in the number of people making a will from home compared to 20191. Among Gen Z, the increase was 465%2. Moreover, in March 2020, the search term ‘will writing’ peaked at 11,000 searches per month.

Are attitudes shifting in terms of how young people think about protecting their assets?

Here’s a snapshot of what we found:

  • 39% of people aged 25 to 34 have a will, compared to 61% who don’t. This remains lower than average; across all age groups, 47% of adults have a will, and 53% don’t.

  • However, attitudes are changing. More than a fifth (22%) of respondents aged 16-24 strongly agreed that their perspective had changed on will writing since the pandemic. This was the highest of any age group.

  • Of those who already have a will, 24% of respondents aged 16-24 claim to have updated their will 2-5 months ago, while 23% claim to have updated their will 6-11 months ago.

While young people are less likely than average to have a will in place, it’s clear that making a will has been more front-of-mind for the younger generations than was previously the case.

Planning after a pandemic

There were some differences between the generations in how COVID-19 has affected the way we think about wills. Among those who have updated their will, 18% of young people (aged 16-24) said they did so after falling ill from COVID-19. In comparison, only 1% of respondents aged 55+ chose this option as a reason for updating their will.

While 14% of people (and 22% of 25 to 34-year-olds) said their perspective on will writing had changed since the pandemic, 30% of people aged over 55 said they strongly disagreed with this statement – the highest of any age group.

For some people, the COVID-19 experience has arguably brought their own mortality into sharper focus, but it’s fair to say this sentiment is not shared across all age groups.

In that case, what is motivating people to take out a will?

 

What would you consider the most important reasons for writing a will?
To make sure my assets are being left to the right beneficiaries 47%
To ensure that my family are provided for financially 43%
To determine who will manage and handle my affairs 32%
To determine who would look after my children? 18%
To avoid paying more Inheritance Tax than required 13%
The coronavirus pandemic made me more aware of mortality 12%
There are no reasons I would consider the most important for writing a will 11%
To state who should care for my pets 9%
To support a charity 9%

 

Pets win prizes

Man and dog is the park

One eye-catching trend is that many respondents said that they would leave assets to their furry friends. The lockdown pet phenomenon has been well-documented – more than 3.2 million households have acquired a pet since the start of the pandemic, according to the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association3  – but the uptick in will making for pets hasn’t received as much attention until now.

 

15% of respondents in the 16-24 age group have used their will to leave their assets to their pets – the highest out of any other age group. The trend was also prevalent in north-east England, where 14% of people have chosen to leave their assets to their dogs, cats and other companions.

If more of us are looking to protect our pooches and moggies, how does this compare to other decisions we make in our will?

Golden retriever under a blanket
Who have you chosen to leave your assets to?
Children 60%
Spouse 38%
Siblings 15%
Parents 11%
Charity 10%
Friends 10%
Co-habiting / new relationship 7%
Other 7%
Pets 5%
Cousins 5%
Civil Partnership 3%
Aunties / uncles 3%

Who's missing out?

For all the evidence of a boom in will writing over the last 18 months, our survey also showed that the uptake is not universal.

64% of people in Northern Ireland do not have a will in place – higher than any other region – compared to 45% of Londoners. Moreover, women were less likely than men to have a will – 41% of women said they have a will, compared to 53% of men.

But what are the reasons for these gaps?

 

If you do not have a will, what would make you more likely to write one?
If I came into money 35%
Falling ill 35%
Advancing age 31%
If I had children 21%
Nothing would make me more likely to write a will 17%
Loss of a loved one 14%
Getting married 11%
Change in relationship 9%
A pandemic (COVID-19 or other unexpected events) 8%
Career change 3%
Other 1%

 

As the above shows, money is a key consideration in how many people perceive their ability to make a will. Our survey showed there were differences not just in terms of people’s financial decision making, but in their understanding of how to make a will. Those aged 16-24 were the most confident about knowing the rules of intestacy – 24% said they were ‘very confident’, the highest of any age group, compared to 14% of 45-54 year-olds.

But even when people expressed doubts about whether it’s the right time to make a will, of those who don’t have one in place, a resounding majority (64%) said they plan to write a will in the future. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Plan your family's future with confidence

No one has a crystal ball, but writing a will and naming executors (the people who will carry out the terms of your will) is one way to give your loved ones a secure financial footing when you're no longer around. And to give your family a little extra peace of mind, Over 50s Life Insurance could help give your nearest and dearest some additional money to put towards funeral costs or a small gift.

Grandparents with grandchildren on stepping stones on river

Sources

1. Farewill source. https://farewill.com/blog/the-year-in-wills-report-2020-how-covid-19-made-us-all-face-our-mortality

2. Farewill source. https://mobile.twitter.com/Farewill/status/1346749492775759872

3. Pet Food Manufacturers Association. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-56362987

Methodology

Legal & General commissioned a survey of 2,006 nationally representative UK respondents on 25th October 2021 to establish the UK’s thoughts and opinions on will writing.

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