Studies Show More Americans Are Creating Wills Online  

creating a will

Prior to COVID-19, more than half of all Americans (about 60 percent) lacked an estate plan. Now, more than two years into the pandemic, that number has started to change for the better — and nonprofits with established planned giving programs are taking notice. 

Stories in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and ABC News all detail studies showing some Americans have gotten more serious about their end-of-life plans since 2020. The majority seem to be younger adults in the 18-34-year-old set.  

However, the studies show there’s still a lot of room for improvement. Middle- and older-aged adults are now even less likely to have a will — meaning that after their passing, the government will step in, take a substantial portion of their assets in taxes, and get the final say on how to disburse the remainder of the estate.  

 Online Will-Planning Popularity Grows 

The pandemic also caused a shift in how estate plans are made. Although experts recommend hiring an attorney to create an estate plan, in this new age of social distancing many Americans are turning to online will planning software because it doesn’t require a face-to-face meeting (and they can always send their will to a lawyer for review).  

It’s a trend that nonprofits are watching closely because if the online will planner is hosted on a planned giving website, it makes it even easier for supporters to include transformative gifts to their favorite organizations.  

To that end, PlannedGiving.Com has taken the lead by creating an integrated, free (for donors) online will planner called LegacyPlanner. “LegacyPlanner serves both as a reminder and an opportunity for donors to get their estate in order. It also gives them an opportunity to invest in their legacy by making your organization part of their estate plans,” says Viken Mikaelian, CEO. 

A Unique Approach 

While there are other free will services available online, LegacyPlanner is unique in that it was developed specifically for use by nonprofits. “LegacyPlanner is designed to directly integrate into planned giving websites designed and maintained by,” Mikaelian says. “It establishes trust because the donor already trusts their favorite charity, and LegacyPlanner does not take them to a third-party site. And because it’s free for the prospective donor, the nonprofit stays top of mind when it’s time for that prospect to decide how they want to create their legacy.” 

While bequests are still the most popular planned gift, LegacyPlanner can lead to an increase in other legacy gifts as well, Mikaelian says. “The donor can use LegacyPlanner to get started, and then use an attorney or financial advisor to structure more complicated gifts.”


Prime Time to Promote Estate Planning 

Because of the renewed interest in estate planning — and because of the number of Americans who still lack a will — now is a prime time for nonprofits to remind supporters and prospects about the importance of estate planning, Mikaelian says.  

“My own father died without a will. It took my wife and me well over a year of very hard work to sort out his estate for my mom. Our family could have saved a small fortune in legal fees had he only been better prepared. Plus, we would have had time to properly mourn his passing, instead of worrying about finding missing paperwork.” 

Because of that experience, Mikaelian says he’s committed to helping get the word out about estate planning — especially among nonprofits. “Dad had several causes he supported, but without a will, we had no idea how he wanted to build his legacy,” he says. “An estate plan eliminates guesswork, excess taxes, and exorbitant legal fees.”


A Host of Estate Planning Tools 

That’s why PlannedGiving.Com offers a suite of other estate planning products in addition to LegacyPlanner. Tools include an estate planning toolkit called Live Well, Leave Well; brochures; postcards and other mailers; an estate planning toolkit developed specifically for women; and articles on how to talk to donors about estate planning and planned giving.  

“We want to make a difference in the way we talk and think about estate planning,” Mikaelian says. “We want to inspire people to think about and plan for the inevitable; to inspire them to shape their legacy while also sparing their families unnecessary pain. 

PlannedGiving.Com has been helping nonprofits meet their digital and print marketing needs since 1998. To learn more about LegacyPlanner, visit PlannedGiving.Com at this link. 

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