More Young Americans Writing Wills Due to COVID Fears: How Much Does Estate Planning Cost?

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The pandemic has changed the face of American society for many, and research now indicates that anxieties surrounding the virus are prompting more U.S. millennials — and the oldest members of Gen Z — to write their wills. In 2021, the number of young adults that had crafted and enacted a will increased significantly, according to a new survey.

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Caring.com’s 2021 Wills and Estate Planning Study found that middle- and older- aged adults are less likely to have a will now than they were just one year ago, while younger adults — those between 18-34 in age — are 63% more likely to have a will in place in 2021 than they were pre-pandemic.

“COVID-19 has significantly increased the demand for estate planning,” Patrick Hicks, head of legal at Trust & Will, said of the survey data. “The pandemic has led many to look for estate planning services that are accessible without going into office buildings or public spaces. For each of these, COVID has accelerated trends that were already in place. We expect to see these trends continue even after the impact of COVID-19 becomes less acute.”

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In addition, 18-34 year-olds are now 16% more likely to have a will than those in the 35-54 age group. The younger generation was also the most likely to cite COVID-19 as the reason they started taking estate planning seriously.

Richard Ortoli, partner at Ortoli Rosenstadt, told GOBankingRates he too has noticed an uptick among members of all age groups — not just younger people — wanting to focus on estate planning.

“By the way, it’s not just that people are contacting me about a will, they also want to sign a Health Care Proxy, which allows a spouse or trusted person to make health care decisions in case of serious illness, and a durable power of attorney, that allows a spouse or a trusted person to manage the person’s affairs if he or she is incapacitated,” Ortoli said. “I think that the pandemic has made a lot of people more aware of their mortality, particularly if they have young children.”

However, the cost of writing a will varies significantly depending on a variety of factors.

How Much Does Estate Planning Cost?

The Wall Street Journal reports that do-it-yourself online options will generally be cheaper than hiring an attorney when it comes to estate planning. An individual can create a will — and healthcare directive — online for $89 with legal-information publisher Nolo if they have a simple estate and don’t want, or require, additional documentation. LegalZoom offers a last will and testament for $89, according to the WSJ.

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If you hire a lawyer, the cost of estate planning is dependent on several variables such as: the number and type of documents; the size of the estate and complexity of the family situation; the nature of assets; and the jurisdiction in which the estate is being prepared, per the WSJ. The publication adds that a simple will may cost around $1,500 with an attorney’s assistance, but that this figure could significantly increase if the estate in question is more complex.

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“There has been a greater focus on estate planning by younger Americans due to COVID-19,” says Hicks. “In many ways, the pandemic forced Americans to consider a new perspective on estate planning. Many younger Americans had delayed creating an estate plan by assuming (incorrectly) that estate planning is only for older people and not relevant for young, healthy people. The unknown aspects of COVID were an unexpected shock that helped many younger Americans realize that estate planning is important precisely because you can never know what the future may bring. Having a plan in place is one small step to protect yourself and your family from otherwise uncontrollable risks.”

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.

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