For the first time since Covid, there is hopeful research that the needle may finally be moving on a troubling statistic. The truth is, many Americans refuse to have a will or estate plan in place. Caring.com, a popular website dedicated to providing information and resources to those caring for aging relatives has been conducting polls for several years. This year, for the first time, their poll has revealed that young people are more likely to have a will than middle-aged adults (https://www.caring.com/caregivers/estate-planning/wills-survey/).
This is an important milestone because it exemplifies that younger Americans were moved by the events surrounding the pandemic to put a plan in place for their loved ones. With a death toll of almost 1 million, young Americans took notice and decided to do something about it (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/us/covid-cases.html). Because nearly everyone knew someone who died of COVID, it upended our collective notion that estate planning is solely for older people or people with tons of assets.
WealthCounsel, a company that sells estate planning software to attorneys and estate planning professionals also released some interesting insight here (http://info.wealthcounsel.com/blog/young-adults-increase-demand-for-estate-planning-services#:~:text=Young%20adults%20often%20feel%20invincible,to%20a%20Caring.com%20survey). While those under 35 years chose to create an estate plan at the highest recorded levels in history, middle aged Americans (35-54) actually decreased their demand for will and estate planning work.
While this makes little to no sense, considering that this age group is closer to retirement, these types of disconnects are very common when talking about a conversation as difficult as death. Similarly, people interviewed in the Caring.com poll stated that the pandemic made them more aware that they need an estate plan, but 31% of them were still not motivated enough to follow through.
It is incumbent upon those of us in the legal profession to educate and inform the public about this incalculably important topic. We must take this knowledge that the pandemic has raised awareness of this issue and help people to follow through on their estate plans. We can do this through initiatives and education that help overcome any objections, and we can start today. The Law Office of Stephen Gaubert is offering $100 of estate planning services through May of 2022 for all businesses or individuals who support Festival International de Louisiane.