The psychology of writing a will

The psychology of writing a will

Are you putting off writing a will due to a fear of death?

According to psychologist Dr Lynda Shaw, “We are scared to talk about death, particularly our own. It feels morbid.   It is very much a cultural problem, unlike in many Asian cultures where it is perfectly natural to talk about death.

Dr Lynda Shaw“As a result, we choose to sweep death under the carpet which means we are not fulfilling our obligation to organise our estate and are instead leaving it to our loved ones to clean up the mess and deal with complicated financial problems when we die.”

Nearly 6 out of 10 UK adults don’t have a will, including one in three over-55s, according to research from

When somebody dies without leaving a will it is not just a case of their assets being automatically divided up between their nearest and dearest.

There are strict government guidelines, often incurring financial penalties for the family left behind.  This can cause huge stress and arguments within the family which could easily be avoided.

There is a psychological concept called the Terror Management Theory.  We try to hide from the reality of death by seeking out distractions or manage the fear by following a religion that supports belief in life after death.

According to this theory the anxiety caused by mortality is a major factor behind much human behaviour.  In our society in particular the culture of the British ‘stiff upper lip’ leads us to not talking about death making it inevitable that writing a will is something we are reluctant to do.

However, Shaw argues that addressing death can actually be a good thing with positive effects.  Becoming more aware of death can completely change your perspective of life.

It can be extremely liberating.  It can lead to fewer anxieties and worries about the smaller things in life and help us embrace the present.

Adopting such an attitude will help us become less afraid of writing a will which can be a positive experience.

“You are doing something responsible that is ensuring your family’s security and relieving them of the burden.  It is not a dark experience but make peace with the inevitability of death and act appropriately in writing a will”, she concludes.