We are going to kick off this new series from our partners at Gathered Here with a question they are frequently asked…
Can online wills survive post-pandemic?
Online wills, an already fast-growing trend, accelerated in popularity during the pandemic. With Covid (hopefully) behind us, is it realistic to expect the same behaviour from consumers?
The short answer? Yes. And here’s why…
During the pandemic, millions of people considered their own mortality for the first time and realised, with urgency, the importance of putting formal plans in place.
With lockdowns restricting movement, online wills were the perfect solution since they could be completed from home, without the need for a solicitor. Unsurprisingly, interest spiked.
However, lockdowns have been a thing of the past (in Australia, at least) since October 2021. If engagement levels were going to drop, we’d be able to see the trend already. In reality, the opposite is true and engagement levels have remained strong.
In 2021, there were 10,121 online wills written via Gathered Here. In 2022, that figure climbed by an impressive 52%, reaching 15,383.
Covid may have pushed death-planning and online will-writing further into the public psyche, but people are still opting for the digital alternative now that life has returned to normal..
Over 1,700 five-star reviews from Gathered Here will-writers shows that users are overwhelmingly satisfied with the service. Why would they abandon that behaviour now?
Much like remote work or telehealth doctor appointments, online will-writing is still convenient in a post-pandemic environment so people will continue the pattern.
It’s also important to remember that, outside of Australia, online wills were thriving years before any of us had even heard of Covid.
UK-based Farewill first launched in 2015. By 2019, one tenth of all wills written in the UK were being done so via Farewill and, now, over £680 million (AU$1.1 billion) is estimated to have been pledged via the website.
Farewill was also voted National Will-Writing Firm of the Year at the British Wills and Probate Awards. This is a clear sign that online wills have been accepted as a legitimate estate planning device by the wider legal community.
Over in the US, FreeWill is following a similar trajectory. First launched in 2017, the platform saw over 50,000 online wills written in just two years. By 2019, an estimated US$550 million (AU$770 million) had been pledged to charities but, now, that figure is closer to $7 billion (AU$10 billion).
There’s no doubt, online wills have been gaining momentum for many years but that momentum has only been apparent in Australia more recently. In reality, the Australian online will space is on the precipice of major growth.
Post-pandemic, online will-writing and legacy giving continue to move from strength to strength. In 2021, 16% of wills written on Gathered Here included a gift to charity. In 2022, that figure climbed to 19%.
Overall gift value also skyrocketed from an estimated $89 million in 2021 to an estimated $224 million in 2022. Should growth continue at the same rate, 2023 could see an estimated $564 pledged to worthy causes.
Of course, as the online will industry attracts greater investment and more widespread attention, platforms and offerings are only going to become more advanced, offering both will-writers and legacy fundraisers an improved experience.
For will-writers, this means improvements in functionality. More intuitive platforms will inevitably lead to wider participation, particularly among demographics that may not be tech natives.
Greater investment will also allow online wills to become more sophisticated. Currently, they are best suited to individuals with fairly straight-forward estate requirements. But, as they develop, it’s likely they’ll be able to cater to more nuanced needs and larger, more complex estates).
For charities and nonprofits, the opportunities are endless.
With invaluable insights into donor demographics, giving behaviours and forecasted revenue, nonprofits can create strategic bequest programs catered to highly-specific segments.
With the majority of donors sharing their contact information with the charity they pledge to, fundraisers also have a powerful way to strengthen relationships with existing donors and nurture relationships with new ones.
Undoubtedly, the future is bright for online wills but they will do far more than survive in a post-pandemic environment – they will continue to evolve and thrive.
Do you have a burning question for the team at Gathered Here? Email email@example.com