In this new series, our partners at Gathered Here answer a question they are frequently asked. This month, that question is:
Who’s actually writing online wills?
Understanding the real people behind online wills can help charities leverage the channel to their advantage. So who are they?
Think about a person sitting at their laptop, writing their will online. Who do you picture?
Someone young and single, living in a sharehouse? A middle-aged couple with a growing family? An elderly retiree choosing which charities to support in their memory?
Whatever image popped into your mind, it’s probably right.
Data collected from over 25,000 wills written on Gathered Here shows a phenomenally wide range of Australians are using online wills to record their last wishes.
People as young as 18 and as old as 101 have completed online wills. People from every Australian state and territory have completed online wills. Renters and owners, parents and non-parents, single people and married couples – they’re all using online wills.
Of course, some demographics are more likely to use online wills than others. Let’s take a closer look at the data.
Age is more than just a number
We’ve all heard the claim that online wills are favoured by the younger generation, which is not necessarily the demographic that would be top priority for gifts in wills fundraisers.
In reality, the Gathered Here 2023 Gifts in Wills Report found that the average age of online will-writers is actually 49.
Interestingly, this is older than the average age of people seeking a traditional will. In 2018, a study by Which? Legal found that the average age of individuals writing a traditional will was 47.
Of course, 47 is still relatively young and we would hope anyone in their 40s would still be decades away from dying. However, averages don’t give the full picture.
A significant proportion of online will-writers are in their golden years. In 2022, almost a fifth of will-writers on Gathered Here were over the age of 65.
As older people continue to grow more comfortable with technology, we’re seeing greater levels of participation and a wider acceptance of digital solutions.
Age isn’t the only category to hold a few surprises though. The marital status and family structure of online will-writers is interesting too.
Family makes the world of difference
Traditionally, married or de facto parents have been the most likely to write a will. We can assume this is because there is a greater sense of responsibility around providing for your family if you die.
In 2021, 41% of all will-writers on Gathered here were married or de facto parents. Unfortunately, this demographic was also the least likely to pledge a gift to charity. Just 5% included a gift in their will. In comparison, 21% of single non-parents pledged a gift.
However, having recognised the issue, the charity sector and online will providers have worked hard to educate the general public about the importance of estate planning – regardless of whether they have a family to financially provide for or not.
Gradually, the tide is turning and more single non-parents are putting plans in place for their estates. In 2022, the percentage of wills written by married parents dropped, accounting for 35% of all wills written on Gathered Here, with a more even split across the demographics.
Interestingly, work to encourage greater levels of giving has also paid off and the giving rate of married and de facto parents has skyrocketed to 16%.
Getting to know the real people
Of course, these demographic splits are in reference to the entire database of will-writers. Split by cause area or even down to the individual charity level, insights become more nuanced.
For example, of all the will-writers who pledged gifts to arts charities, none were parents. In contrast, more than half of the people who pledged a gift to a children’s charity were parents.
Understanding who those people are can give fundraisers an edge. They can create a strategic approach, target high-probability demographics and – hopefully – forge a bequest program that generates consistent income for years to come.
To read more insights into online will-writers, download the 2023 Gifts in Wills Report.
If you have a question you’d like Gathered Here to answer, email email@example.com