That’s the main reason why most Americans lack wills, with fewer than half of American adults (42%) having a will. That’s according to a survey published on caring.com.
The New York Times’ recent article, “Why You Should Get Around to Drawing Up a Will,” says the most common excuse given for not having a will was, “I just haven’t gotten around to it,” as cited by almost 50% of survey participants who didn’t have one. However, people are more likely to create estate planning documents as they get older. The survey shows that just one in five millennials (ages 18 to 36) has a will. On the other hand, the survey found that 81% of people 72 and older have one.
A valid will is important to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes after you pass away. If you die without a will, your estate will be settled by state law. Assets typically pass according to the degree of family relationship.
Another important aspect of estate planning is the fact that some accounts take precedence over a will. For instance, if you jointly own a home, the house will go to the joint holder—even if your will says something contradictory. Likewise, retirement accounts and life insurance proceeds are distributed to the designated beneficiaries. It is important to keep them up-to-date.
Especially surprising is the survey’s finding that just 36% of adults with minor children have a will, because an important reason to have a will is for parents to name a guardian for their minor children in the event of their death.
Creating a will with a do-it-yourself (DIY) software program or online may work okay in some cases, as when you’re single with a modest bank account. But if you have some financial assets or a complex family situation (perhaps a blended family or a daughter with special needs), it’s better to work with a qualified estate planning attorney. The potential cost savings from trying it on your own can be quickly gobbled up, if an estate is contested in court. The New York Times tested several DIY will creation programs several years ago and concluded that legal assistance was required for all but the simplest estates. Consumer Reports reached a similar result.
Reference: New York Times (February 8, 2017) “Why You Should Get Around to Drawing Up a Will”