TIANJIN, April 9 (Xinhua) -- In China, writing a will used to be seen as creating "negative-energy," associated with death and disputes, and was almost taboo in public discourse.
"Five years ago, when the China Will Registration Center was founded, the elderly people who came here were very alarmed and sensitive. They were also reluctant when asked about their arrangements after 'a hundred years' (a Chinese euphemism for death)," said Chen Kai, director of the center's management committee.
The China Will Registration Center was founded in 2013 to provide free-of-charge registration service for people aged above 60. It has seven branches, in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing, Guangdong, Jiangsu and Guangxi.
According to the center, around 109,791 people have learnt about the service and the center kept 82,177 wills as of the end of 2017.
Though the figure is small, the center aims to expand the number of wills to 10 million by 2024, according to a white paper.
"We are cooperating with civil affairs departments and local governments to expand our presence to provide services for more aged people," Chen said.
"Chinese people's family wealth is growing, a lot of people like to see their assets properly handled without disputes," he said.
By 2017, China has 241 million people above the age of 60, accounting for 17.3 percent of the total population, according to the Office of the National Working Commission on Aging. The number of seniors will peak around 2050 to reach 487 million, 34.9 percent of the total population.
The center says that will registration helps elderly people properly pass down their wealth, including apartments, bank deposits, stocks and other valued possessions.
Registering a will takes several hours. An applicant must complete an on-site consultation, drafting the will and a mental evaluation. Then the applicant establishes their will with eyewitnesses present. The whole process is photographed and videotaped. A will certificate is issued to the applicant about one month after application.
"Every day we get around 50 people coming here for consultation. Around 10 people register their wills every day," said Yu Huiwei, director of the Tianjin branch. The branch is located at an unimpressive building in Heping district.
The center says it cooperates with notaries and lawyers to make sure the wills are accepted as valid documents that are true to the last testament of the deceased.
"If disputes arise from a testator, we could mediate, and if mediation fails, the documents will be submitted to a court. So far, several wills have been adopted in court rulings," Yu said.
A single woman in Tianjin died last year, and left her apartment to her younger sister in her will, Yu said. However, her brother, was excluded as a beneficiary even though he was also entitled to the property, and hired a lawyer to file a lawsuit.
"After the lawyer saw the will, he told his client that there was little chance of winning because the will was strong evidence. The family finally settled the matter in private," Yu said.
According to the white paper, the people who established their wills used to be between 71 to 80, but now the age is getting younger.
"We have a lot of clients aged between 61 to 70," Yu said.
"There is more open discussion now and that's why we call it a 'happy message' to be passed on to the next generation. We hope more people will accept it," said Chen.