By Simon Mackie, Senior Associate, Will, Trust and Estates Team
We all know that we should have one in place – it is, after all, arguably the most important document that we, as individuals, are likely to sign. Yet many, if not most, of us just never quite get around to making one. Wouldn’t it be great if we could simply add it to our Christmas wish list and wait for Santa to drop it down the chimney!
What, on earth, am I talking about, I hear you ask. The will, of course.
Well, recent research (albeit carried out in the US) suggests that it is the younger generations (the millennial and Gen Z groups as they tend to be labelled these days) who now recognise the importance of putting their estate planning in order. The research found that, since 2020, the number of adults aged between 18 and 34 with a will increased by some 63%. The main factor motivating this shift among the millennial and Gen Z generations was found to be COVID-19.
Now, all things considered, it may be unsurprising that the pandemic has had such an impact on focusing minds to engage in estate planning more readily. Nevertheless, it is, surely, to be welcomed. Not least because, when viewed against this same backdrop, middle-aged and older-aged adults appear less likely to have a will in place now than they were before the pandemic. According to the same research, there was a decrease of some 39% among those in the 35 to 54 age group and a decrease of some 27% among those aged 55 and over with a will.
Although many of us have experience a sense of a loss of control over certain aspects of our lives caused by the pandemic and the restrictions and guidance surrounding it, we do still have control over our estate planning. Without writing a will, we are subject to imposed rules of intestacy which may have undesirable consequences.
It is the will which gives us the control over how our assets will pass when we die and how other important elements will be dealt at that time, such as the appointment of guardians to look after our minor children. And as a relatively new parent myself, whatever aspirations I may have of living a long life, do I really want to risk leaving the choice of who will bring up my young daughter to the Courts? No, thank you.
As the pandemic mutates again, continuing to create uncertainty and to cause us to reflect, possibly, on our own mortality (sorry for the rather morbid tone at what is supposed to be a more joyful time of the year), we ought to follow the lead of Gen Z and take time to focus on those aspects of our affairs that we must, and can, get in order.
So, if Santa doesn’t drop it down the chimney this Christmas, then stick it at the top of your list for the New Year and get that will written for your own peace of mind.
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