Futureproof: Writing a Will in the Digital Age

Written by Joanna Ralphs - 19.08.20

What effect is technology having on how Gen Z and Millennials write their Wills?

For most generations, estate planning is prompted by big life events – buying a home, starting a successful business, getting married or having children. But for Millennials and Gen Z, these big life events have been overshadowed by something much more universal: COVID-19.

WWFH – Will writing from home

Thanks to advances in modern technology, the risk to life created by the pandemic has been met with a surge in uptake of Wills and Trusts, with deVere reporting a 76% jump in demand in March 2020. This is great news, as now families up and down the country will be better cared for in the event of someone passing.

Reported figures also suggest many of these new Wills belong to young people. This isn’t surprising, as pre-COVID reports suggested that as little as 12% of under 34s had made a Will. Video conferencing and digital communication has made it easier than ever to have a Will set up from the comfort – and safety – of your own home, and the government has even announced legislation backing the use of video-conferencing when signing your Will.

To give you an example, at Laurus we use a mix of communication channels, including video calls and WhatsApp, to allow you to have a watertight Will written by a professional, without even having to visit the office , if you don’t want to. We’ve yet to see if this trend will stick around, but our teams have been successfully using the latest tech for years to talk to our clients, and the current circumstances have seen other firms rushing to catch up.

Even minimalists need a Will

Analysis has been telling us for years that younger generations are less likely to own a home or get married. People of all ages are continuing the movement of valuing experiences over possessions – so what exactly are millennials going to put in their Will?

The digital age isn’t only affecting how we write Wills, but what we put in them, too.

Life is becoming ever more digital, and so are our assets. Even if you don’t own any physical possessions, you would still benefit from having a Will. It makes it clear who you want to sort out your finances and funeral arrangements when you’re gone, and what those arrangements should be. Maybe, like a lot of millennials, you want an eco-burial, or you want to avoid a religious ceremony – you should establish this in a Will, otherwise making these choices becomes a lot more complicated for your friends and family.

Digital assets are increasingly being named in our Wills. We’re all turning to digital ways of storing our memories. Photos, videos, journals – any digital possessions should all be taken care of in your Will. Otherwise they may not live on without you.

You can instruct an executor to manage your social media accounts, for example, deactivating them or turning your Facebook or Instagram into a memorial account, which will remain frozen and can’t be logged into. 

Perhaps you’ve got a lot of followers? While some celebrity accounts have been taken over by family members as a tribute after they’ve passed, others have been subject to hacking attempts to promote products or spam links. It could be quite distressing for friends, family or fans if someone logs on to your account after you’re gone, and it can be difficult for your loved ones to protect your account if they haven’t been given written permission.

When a social media account has monetary value, there’s even more incentive to protect it in your  Will.  Maybe you have intellectual property in the form of digital art, video or writing, or an online shop with pending transactions? It’s important to have a plan in place at any age, as you can see, because even if we don’t have possessions to leave, there’s still our online lives to think about.

Money, too, has gone online, and millennials are most likely to own cryptocurrency, which you could make special provisions for in your Will.  Aside from your digital assets, you might think about naming a custodian for a beloved pet, gifting a treasured belonging to a friend, or leaving money to a cause you’re passionate about. And that’s all without even discussing home ownership or a partner.

Speak to the Legacy team at Laurus about taking care of your wishes after you've gone. 

You can reach the team on 020 3146 6312 or abigail.bird@lauruslaw.co.uk


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Sources:

DeVere Wills Report (March 2020)

Millennials – The Forgotten Generation in Wills and Probate