The largest factor driving this is the continued uncertainty brought by the pandemic. Also driving interest, according to lawyers and financial advisers, are some events that millennials have not experienced before, such as the sharp rise of inflation. This general unease is prompting the millennials to write their wills and healthcare proxies to remain in control.
Avi Kestenbaum, a partner at Meltzer, Lippe, Goldstein & Breitstone LLP, said that millennial clients are concerned about the different coronavirus variants, especially those who have young children. He saw an uptick of services during the delta wave, and could see another push in the coming weeks if omicron sparks new wave of infections. "Millennials are saying, 'let me plan now as I'm not going to live forever,'" he said.
The need to create a will and other documents are normally far from the minds of younger people, but more and more have been writing their wills since the start of the pandemic.
Around 35 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds were motivated by COVID-19 to engage in the estate-planning process, compared with 23 percent of 35- to 54-year-olds and 15 percent of 55 years and older. While older clients generally keep their lawyers busy, some have stayed out of offices due to continued health concerns. (Related: Millennials are being devastated by chronic health conditions and no one knows why.)
Under half of Americans already have wills, with people 65 and older most likely to have one. The overall percentage of Americans who report having a will has been relatively stable since 1990.
Writing a will can be labor-intensive and costly, so many tend to put it off. However, millennials today feel vulnerable without one and want to make sure that end-of-life wishes will be followed in case they die of COVID.
Costs of writing the last will vary widely. While online options are cheaper than hiring a lawyer – it can be as low as $89 – there are different factors to consider such as the size of the estate and the complexity of the family situation. There is also the nature of assets and jurisdictions in which they are being prepared.
Kestenbaum said that a simple will may cost around $1,500, but it could cost significantly more if it is complicated. Dying without a will, however, will let the state statutes determine how assets are distributed under the supervision of a court. The process will be slower and more costly as well.
Patrick Hicks, head of legal at Trust & Will, said: "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."
Not having a will can also be catastrophic in some situations.
Judith Flynn, board member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, noted that if beneficiaries with special needs inherit funds outright rather than in a supplemental needs trust, they could lose their government benefits that may be essential to their quality of life.
Financial adviser and lawyer Jeff Fishman said that millennials usually call when someone in the public eye dies, especially if it is a young person with an air of invincibility.
For instance, when Los Angeles pitcher Tyler Skaggs died of a fentanyl overdose in 2019, several millennials contacted Fishman to look for a referral to an attorney who can write their will. "The question we then often hear is: 'What if this happens to me?'" he said.
Read more news related to the coronavirus pandemic at Pandemic.news.