More young people are getting their affairs in order by writing a will, despite not having as many material possessions as their older counterparts.
A growing trend in younger people writing a will is likely to have been prompted by the pandemic, experts suggest. A recent study by end of life experts, Aura, has found that Gen Z and millennials are considering their own lifetime planning needs and making more financial plans than their older counterparts were when they were their age.
The new research suggests that a third of Britons have changed their attitude to death as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the change of mindset was perhaps expected in the older generation, it is Gen Z and millennials who have surprised industry experts the most.
Gen Z – those born between 1995 and 2012 - are four times more likely than those in the boomer age bracket to make a bucket list, while millennials are more likely to make financial plans and talk about death with their children than their parents’ generation. The younger generation are also the most likely to have become more scared of dying since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the research.
This may not come as too much of a surprise to some, however, prior to the pandemic, millennials and Gen Z were dubbed the “death positive generation” with an increase in young people planning their own funerals.
The impact of the pandemic
In a recent interview with The Telegraph, Emily James, 22, says she felt compelled to write a will in September last year, with the pandemic being the main driving force behind her decision.
In the current climate, you can’t really get away from death – it's something my generation has never been faced with so distinctly before.
The death count is broadcast every day, and most people know someone who has been affected by the virus, which starts to make you think and want to plan for your future.
The continuing pandemic, the relentless daily death count, and the realisation that life is actually quite fragile appears to be the biggest factor for many young people writing wills. Some data even suggests that individual days in 2020 saw spikes of will writing. The day Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted to intensive care, for example, saw 2020’s biggest growth in will writing.
In addition to this, the largest generational increase in will writing for the year was Gen Z with a staggering 465 percent increase, followed by millennials who saw a 298 percent rise.
Simon, 28, also spoke of his perspective changing after the events of the last 12 months. He said:
After seeing friends and family members suffer with Covid-19, my whole perspective on making a will has changed.
I had worked really hard to save up for three years, so it seemed like a good time to future proof.
I always thought a will was ‘nice to have’ and not that important, but life has felt much more fragile now, which has made me feel like I should be responsible.
The impact of our lives moving online
Aura’s research suggests part of the reason for looking more inwardly at death could be to do with how our lives are moving more and more online, particularly over lockdown. A large proportion of millennials and Gen Z are contemplating what will happen to their online presence when they are gone, while others are talking to each other about death more openly online.
This has been on the radar of social media platforms for a while. Since 2019, Facebook has used artificial intelligence to stop what it called “intrusion into users’ grief”, whereby the platform would suggest they invite a dead friend to an event or wish them a happy birthday. They also added a memorial feature in 2017 which shows up on someone’s profile after they have died.
The survey shows that social media platforms and online communities may have also facilitated the younger generation facing up to death, much more so than in person. Younger people were four more times likely to attend “death cafés” - where death is discussed openly and honestly online – or join a death-related online community. One 22-year-old survey respondent said:
The pandemic ignited something in me, as I’ve been extremely anxious about death my whole life, and it’s a topic I’ve always avoided whenever possible.
I ended up going [to a death café], and was told I probably had thanatophobia [the fear of death]. I didn’t even know my anxiety had its own word, and it was really enlightening talking about it openly.
How can Percy Hughes & Roberts help?
More people writing wills can only be a positive thing, especially if it means there are fewer disputes for families further down the line. We welcome the current trend of millennials and Gen Z getting their affairs in order, and can support them in writing their will.
Whether you are planning for the future or have recently lost a family member, we can advise on the appropriate next steps for you to take. We have a team of expert will writing solicitors who are ready to help you start writing your will to combat any unwanted consequences after you pass away.
If you need assistance with writing a will, making a change to a will, or simply want general advice, our Wirral Wills solicitors have a wealth of experience.