Estate planning services are in high demand as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Surprisingly, young adults are more likely than their middle-aged counterparts to have a will. This demand presents a unique opportunity to offer estate planning services to the eighteen to thirty-four year old demographic, as well as their older counterparts whose planning efforts are lagging behind.
Perspective from the Pandemic
While the pandemic has affected everyone, it has particularly changed the perspective of young people. Young adults often feel invincible, but they have faced a stark reality as the virus has affected them along with their friends and family members. People ages eighteen to thirty-four have increased their use of estate planning services by a whopping 63 percent, according to a Caring.com survey.
Even those young adults who have not completed an estate plan have increasingly taken preliminary actions, such as talking to loved ones about their estate planning wishes and researching wills and trusts online.
While young adults are moving forward, their middle-aged and senior counterparts have curiously decreased their use of estate planning services since the pandemic began. While this makes little sense, it does offer an opportunity to educate and serve clients by illustrating the need to plan for their estates.
As we examine the actions of various demographics during the pandemic, we can see a couple of disconnects between what is expected and what is happening. Overcoming these paradoxes can open the door to assisting more clients with managing their estates, along with the help of a WealthCounsel membership.
Disconnect No. 1
It makes sense that the pandemic has brought life’s fragile nature into focus for younger adults who may not have even thought about estate planning had COVID-19 never surfaced. However, it does not make sense that middle-aged and older Americans are less likely to have a will than they were just two years ago—in that time, the number of adults aged thirty-five to fifty-four who have a will has decreased by 39 percent, while the number of adults aged fifty-five and older with a will has decreased by 27 percent.
These older adults should already have perspective based on their life experiences, and they are closer to the time when they will need to put their estate plan into action. Attorneys should be able to convince these clients that they need to move forward to complete their estate plans.
Disconnect No. 2
An even bigger challenge for potential clients is to not only recognize the need for estate planning services but to also complete the process. For example, one in three survey participants reported that the COVID-19 pandemic opened their eyes to the need to get their estate plan in order. However, 31 percent of these enlightened folks were not motivated to take action. That can be frustrating, but it also presents an opportunity. These horses have already led themselves to water, so it should not be too difficult to make them drink.
Overall, one in four survey participants were motivated by COVID-19 to engage in the estate planning process, with 5 percent making it to the finish line by obtaining a will or other estate planning document.
So, the opportunity is there: despite COVID-19 and the increased desire to create a will, only one in three adults has one. That is a huge market of people who potentially want and need estate planning services but have not yet obtained them.
Make the Connection by Overcoming Objections
Overall, the number of adults with an estate plan is down from 42 percent in 2017 to 33 percent today. Why do so many people not have a will when they clearly need one? Here are some of the top reasons.
Many people without an estate plan will point out that they have taken some action, including the following:
- Talking to a loved one
- Researching estate plans online
- Planning to notify loved ones
- Writing a rough draft of their wishes
- Choosing an executor
This leaves them with the feeling that they have made some progress even though they do not have an official document in place.
Lack of Assets
Some people do not consider themselves candidates for estate planning services because they feel they have nothing significant to pass on to future generations. While they may be renting an apartment and driving a used car, they do not realize they have valuable assets that must be considered in an estate plan. These include family heirlooms, retirement plans, insurance policies, intellectual property, and even online accounts.
Other potential clients assume that they cannot afford the services of an estate planning attorney. They may find that they are wrong. In addition, they may learn that what they really cannot afford is for their assets to end up with the wrong people or be tied up in probate court instead of being seamlessly transferred to their loved ones. If a potential client fails to leave clear directions, their family members could end up in the worst-case scenario of fighting for control of the process.
Lack of Awareness
Another reason for not obtaining an estate plan is lack of knowledge. This is the flimsiest excuse of all, because anyone can conduct a Google search on how to do anything. Lack of awareness about estate planning can also fall under the Procrastination category if potential clients just do not want to take the time to understand the process.
Some potential clients may be convinced that an estate plan is necessary, but they feel they do not need to take action until they get older. More than half of the survey participants agreed that they should have a plan in place by the age of forty-five. Of course, people should ideally start this process as soon as they turn eighteen.
In addition, parents of young children need to consider a guardianship plan that details who will raise their children if they both pass away before the kids become adults. It is not a fun topic to consider, but it is very important that the guardians be willing and able to raise the children in case the unthinkable happens.
Income and race play a small factor in awareness of the need for estate planning services. Those who earn $40,000 to $80,000 per year had an 18 percent increase in their receipt of estate planning services. Other income groups remained about the same.
Minorities also increased their estate planning in 2020 to 2021, with African Americans up 6 percent and Hispanics up 12 percent. The number for Caucasians remained mostly unchanged.
WealthCounsel Can Help You Maximize Opportunity
As an estate planning attorney, you can serve many new clients who are ready to finalize their plans for their families' futures. Providing awareness and education will do a great service to many who are just a nudge away from taking this important step.
Now is the perfect time to join WealthCounsel so you can benefit from our unparalleled drafting software, educational resources, and community support. Get started today by scheduling a software demo.