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Financial Planning > Trusts and Estates > Estate Planning

Pandemic Spurred Legacy Planning Discussions: Edward Jones

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What You Need to Know

  • For 18% of respondents, these were first-time discussions about such topics as finances, health and legal plans.
  • While 71% of respondents 50 and older believe that making a will is the most important action before someone dies, only 49% have one.
  • Only 19% of older adults have a will, health care directive/living will and designated power of attorney in place.

A third of U.S. adults report that the pandemic prompted conversations with family members about their end-of-life plans and preferences, according to a recent survey from Edward Jones in partnership with Age Wave.

For 18% — 44.5 million Americans — these were first-time discussions about such topics as finances, health and legal plans.

Two-thirds of survey participants also reported that the pandemic has made them give more thought to the legacy they want to leave their families.

Sixty-four percent of those 50 and older said they want to leave lasting memories from shared experiences, 43% want to impart life lessons and values, and 32% want to leave an inheritance.

“It’s no surprise that the pandemic made Americans more acutely aware of the need for discussions around end-of-life planning,” Edward Jones principal Alison Carnie said in a statement. “We are encouraged that these tough conversations are happening more frequently, especially for individuals who did not have plans in place pre-pandemic.”

The Harris Poll conducted the nationally representative online survey within the U.S. in August among 2,020 adults.

Intention vs. Action

The survey found that the effects of the pandemic resulted in nearly 50 million Americans halting or reducing contributions to retirement savings. Thirty-eight million more withdrew money from retirement savings. 

At the same time, 59 million Americans began contributing more to their retirement savings.  

The survey underscored the gap between intention and action among a majority of Americans 50 and older. Seventy-one percent believe that having a will in place is the most important action to take before someone dies, yet only 49% actually have one. And only 19% of older adults have all three essential end-of-life documents in place: a will, health care directive/living will and designated power of attorney.

More on this topic

Besides the lack of these crucial documents, the survey found that long-term care is one of the biggest considerations for which Americans are unprepared. 

Fifty-one percent of Americans 50 and older said they do not have any long-term care plans in place, while 10% have arranged to live with a child or another close family member.

In another finding, 53 million respondents said they wish their parents and in-laws did a better job of managing their money. Millennials expressed the most concern about the solvency of their parents’ finances.

Fifty-three percent of these young participants worried that their parents and in-laws will become financially dependent on them one day. This spotlights the need for transparent dialogue within the family, Edward Jones said.

The Call for Advice

Seventy-one percent of respondents said the pandemic has brought their family closer together, and 63% agreed that there are many benefits of involving different generations in important financial decisions. 

Still, challenges persist in having family conversations about important financial topics, according to 60% of the sample. Twenty-two percent cited avoiding family conflict as a roadblock to discussion.

Twenty percent said they wanted to avoid burdening family members with their finances, and 18% acknowledged that they are simply too uncomfortable to discuss these topics.

“A financial advisor can help facilitate these conversations making things a little easier as family members navigate financial concerns, intergenerational needs and end-of-life financial considerations,” Carnie said. “To leave the legacy you desire, it’s essential to have a strategy and seek out trusted advice from a financial professional.” 

In fact, 22 million Americans began working with a financial advisor for the first time during the pandemic, Edward Jones said.