After analyzing a total of 190,866 wills that it has stored since its establishment in 2013, the organization also found that there has been a steady uptick in wills made by Chinese millennials and even younger generations. By the end of 2020, the center had helped a total of 553 young Chinese people born after 1990 to navigate the process of estate planning. The youngest will creator in its database is 17 years old.
The numbers are notable, especially given that the organization shuttered in-person operations for about two months in response to the pandemic. While its offices were closed, the center launched a mini-application within WeChat, which allowed users to leave notes about their end-of-life wishes and instructions. Although the over 70,000 comments it received online had no legal value, the center said the popularity of the service showed that the pandemic had made a lot of people appreciate life in a different way, especially young adults under 30, who made up over 60% of the people who used the application.
The impact of COVID-19 can also be found in other parts of the report. For example, it noted that since last August, a growing number of Chinese people living abroad have consulted the center about estate planning. Chén Kǎi 陈凯, the director of the center’s management committee, said (in Chinese) that the worsening situation of COVID-19 in foreign countries was their impetus for “arranging assets at home.” Meanwhile, from February to April, when the outbreak was at its peak in China, the center saw a dramatic rise in visits to its offices, about 21% of which were by healthcare workers.
Intrigued by the growing trend of young adults setting up wills, Research Center of the Coming Wave, a youth-focused digital magazine run by new media group 36Kr, interviewed (in Chinese) four will writers born after 1990. When asked why they started to prepare for their demise while in the prime of their lives, the answers varied widely, from eminently practical concerns, such as death anxiety caused by immense pressure at work, to social factors, such as wellness culture and the desire to “eliminate unnecessary trouble after death.”