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Where There's a Will . . .

Many people don't think about having a will made until they sprout a few gray hairs. But recently, in the Harbin City, Heilongjiang Province, notary office has seen quite a few young people come in to have their wills notarized.

The head of the administration department of the Harbin notary office says that they have now grown used to seeing young people come in to have their wills notarized. This group has a variety of reasons: some have serious illnesses; others travel frequently and feel there is some risk associated with that; others simply think it is fun.

Staff from the notary office were called to a local hospital one day to notarize a will for a young man in the terminal stages of cancer. After checking with his doctors to ensure that he was of sound mind, the notaries made photo and video recordings of the young man signing his will. In another case, a young father diagnosed with a heart ailment made out a will to ensure that his child would inherit his property.

In China's fast-growing economy, many people are acquiring substantial property and they want to be sure that it is disposed of properly in event of their deaths. This is particularly true in the case of young couples.

Some younger, newly wealthy and still healthy people want to play it safe in the event of some unforeseen natural disaster. One businessman in his early thirties whose estate was worth more than a million yuan (US$120,000) had a will made out for this reason. Other people who fly frequently or work in high-risk jobs feel similarly.

An expert from the Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences says that the phenomenon reflects societal change. Economic development means that China is home now to many well-to-do young people who are more conscious of the need for legal protection than their elders. They treasure their newfound wealth and seek legal means to protect it. Moreover, he says, young people today are more open-minded and take a practical view of death rather than fearing it and shying away from the thought.

(china.org.cn by Wang Ruyue, May 6, 2004)

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