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Did you know that 64% of all Americans don’t have a will or the comprehensive estate plans that should go with them? That’s up 8% from 2011. Clearly Americans are going in the wrong direction.
Incredibly, 51% of Americans age 55 to 64 don’t have wills, according to a survey released by Rocket Lawyer, a website that offers low-cost legal services. Even worse, 62% of those ages 45 to 54 — and 67% of women that age — haven’t drafted wills. Furthermore, a whopping 39% of people with minors didn’t have the necessary wills and other paperwork needed.
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But why all the hesitation to create a will and do proper estate planning?
Reason being – where too stressed out about what’s going on in our day to day lives to worry about what needs to happen before we drop dead! So we keep pushing it off and pushing it off until one day we can’t push it off any longer, and we find we’ve left our loved ones grossly unprepared.
When You Die Without a Will
Just in case you don’t know what happens when you die without a will, I’ll tell you.
If you die without will — or, as lawyers call it, “intestate” — there’s no guarantee who will inherit your assets. Generally speaking, if you were married with kids, your surviving spouse and children would then inherit your assets. If you had minor children, the state would choose their guardians. The state – did you catch that? Do you want the state deciding who will care for your kids?
If you were single and childless, the state you resided in would likely determine which of your relatives will inherit your financial assets and property. So if you happen to have a favorite niece or nephew they may or may not inherit what you wanted them to receive.
Without a will, your estate will go through probate, a slow-moving and costly process the courts use to sort things out.
Of course there are the benefits of having a will and knowing you’ve taken of your loved one, protected your assets and hopefully avoid any family arguments over who gets what.
Why People Say They Don’t Have Wills
Besides being too stressed out to worry about making the proper estate plans, people generally have a few reasons why they don’t do the planning they know they should do:
- 57% hadn’t gotten around to making a will
- 22% didn’t see the urgency in making a will
- 17% didn’t think they needed a will
- 14% didn’t want to think about their death
No matter what your situation – married or single, kids or childless, old or young – if you have assets and or children, you should be making a will. A will is the only document that can name a guardian of minor children.
And, if you have assets over 100K you should consider developing a trust which will keep you avoid probate and minimize estate taxes. It’s also the only tool you can use to gain greater control over how your assets will be distributed and used. For example, if you were to die and leave minor children you could set up a schedule of when they would fully inherit your estate.
What If You’re Without A will?
See an attorney who can help you draw up the necessary paperwork. Can’t afford an attorney? There are online resources like LegalZoom.com or Quicken Willmaker from Intuit that will do in the short run.
Here’s a quick list of the documents you might want to create:
2. Health Care Proxy
3. Living Will
5. Durable Power of Attorney
Depending on where you live you may need all or just some of these documents. You’ll need to do some research for your particular state if you decide to do this on your own.
No matter what you choose, if you have children, a home, and other assets don’t leave the decision to someone who wouldn’t know where and how you want things managed. Take the time to prepare and map out these crucial decisions before it’s too late.
If you have sizable assets and minor children, hire a lawyer to complete your estate plan. If you do it yourself, consider hiring an attorney to review what you’ve created and make sure it will survive the scrutiny of a court.
Don’t forget to review your retirement accounts and ensure the beneficiaries are up to date. If you die and don’t do this whoever is listed will get those assets even if you’re divorced from them or you just got married and forgot to record your kids.
Create An Estate Plan File At Home
I’ve had a will and trust since I got divorced 25 years ago. At the time, my daughter was a minor but since that time I’ve had my will revised several times to reflect the changes in our lives. For example, I added new provisions for my grandson after he was born.
In my home, I have a designated file cabinet with a dedicated file drawer which holds all my essential paperwork relating to my estate plan including my will, trust, durable power of attorney, health care proxy, and living will.
In that cabinet, all my other legal and financial paperwork is there as well including checking accounts, insurance, 401 information, passwords, anything that Carrie would need to access in the event I fell seriously ill or died. Because it’s all organized and she knows where to find it, I’m saving her the trouble, hassle and time looking around for what she needs.
That’s a real gift you can give your loved one by creating a space where they can find what they need in the event of an emergency or the unexpected.
So stop procrastinating! We’re all going to die, of that I’m sure so why not make sure your family is adequately prepared and your wishes well represented to those you leave behind?