Demands for wills surged during pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic triggered a rise in estate planning, and yet too many Americans still aren’t planning ahead.

Last spring, news reports were rife with stories of advisors experiencing a surge in demand for wills and estate planning. Power of attorney and health care directives were also a focus, as people made decisions about who could access their medical and financial records and who could make decisions on their behalf.

The Q4 Wells Fargo/Gallup Investor and Retirement Optimism Index showed that close to half of investors have neither a will nor an estate plan. About a third say they have a written will (34%), 4% have a written estate plan, and 17% have both.

According to the report, higher-income investors are no more prepared than others. One good sign, though, is that the likelihood an investor has a will or estate plan does increase with age. Most (83%) investors 65 and older have some preparations in place. But that number drops to 30% for investors under age 50.

The pandemic heightened awareness of the need for clear end-of-life plans. Fortunately, mortality rates have dropped since the virus’s onset, and vaccines are increasingly available. But don’t let that good news stop you from preparing.

With plans and proper documentation in place, you can get out ahead of future health crises. Estate planning allows you to retain some control over your affairs in the event of disability or incapacitation while you are alive, and it means you, and not a probate court, decide where your assets go when you die.

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