Dog owners are increasingly considering provisions for their pets as they write and update their wills following the global Covid 19 pandemic. Financial services firm Legal & General commissioned a survey to uncover the UK’s attitudes towards and reasons for writing a will, and how this has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • More people don’t have a will (53%) than those who do (47%)
  • More than a fifth (22%) of respondents aged 16-24 strongly agreed that their perspective had changed on will writing since the pandemic
  • The most important reason for writing a will is to leave assets to the right beneficiaries, cited by 47% of respondents
  • 15% of respondents aged 16-24 have left their assets to their pets
  • 40% of respondents without a will in place said they simply ‘hadn’t got round to it’

Back in March 2020, the search term ‘will writing’ peaked at 11,000 searches per month, showing evidence of a will writing boom as people in the UK looked to secure their future during unprecedented times. Since then, new data from Legal & General reveals that in October 2021, less than half (47%) of people in the UK have a will, compared to 53% who don’t.

The research found that the pandemic has impacted different generations in contrasting ways when it comes to will writing. More than a fifth (22%) of respondents aged 16-24 strongly agreed that their perspective had changed on will writing since the pandemic, the highest of any age group. However, 30% of people aged 55+ strongly disagreed with this statement.

As a result of this perspective shift, over half (52%) of respondents aged 16-24 claim to have updated their will within the last year. This is higher than the average, as almost a quarter (24%) of all respondents had updated their will within the last year, while for over 55s this was only 14%.

Among those who have updated their will, 18% of 16-24 year olds said they did so after falling ill from COVID-19, compared to only 1% of respondents aged 55+ choosing this option. But what other motivations do Brits have for writing a will? L&G found that the most popular reasons were:

To make sure my assets are being left to the right beneficiaries 47%
To ensure that my family are provided for financially 43%
To determine who will manage and handle my affairs 32%
To determine who would look after my children 18%
To avoid paying more inheritance tax than required 13%

With family considerations being cited as a top reason for taking out a will, it’s no surprise that most people choose to leave their assets to their children (60%), spouse (38%), and siblings (15%).

However, the survey revealed that some Brits plan on leaving their assets to their pets! 15% of respondents aged 16-24 have used their will to leave assets to their furry friends, the highest of any age group. Respondents in the North East of England also admitted to this, with 14% choosing their pet as a beneficiary.

While some Brits are prioritising their pets, others are using their will to give back, as 10% of respondents said they have chosen to leave assets to charity. Charitable giving was most popular among residents in the South East compared to any other region, with 14% leaving assets to charity.

Despite the indication of a will writing boom early on in the pandemic, data suggests that the uptake is not universal. Two thirds (66%) of people in the UK know the value of their assets, yet a majority have not yet written a will (53%).

There is evidence of a gender divide as only 41% of women have a will, compared to 53% of men. There is also a regional difference: 64% of people in Northern Ireland do not have a will in place (the highest of any region), compared to 45% of Londoners.

For those who have not taken out a will, the most popular reason for this was ‘I haven’t got round to it’ was the most popular answer given, cited by 40%. This was followed by ‘I have no assets to pass on’ (21%), and ‘I’m too young (14%)’.

6% of respondents claimed they had not yet taken out a will because it’s too much effort. This could be due to a lack of knowledge and understanding of how to make a will. L&G’s data revealed a further generational divide in knowing the rules of intestacy. Those aged 16-24 were most confident about this: 24% said they were ‘very confident’, compared to only 14% of 45-54 year olds.

Although 17% of people without a will admitted that nothing would make them more likely to write one, the majority (64%) said they do plan to write a will in the future. 35% of respondents without a will said that they would be more likely to write a will if they came into money or fell ill, and 31% cited advancing age as a motivator to write a will in the future.

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