If you could make sure that all your money, property, and other important belongings were given to exactly the right people, wouldn’t you do it? The question seems like a no-brainer but the reality is that the majority of Americans do not do this!
A 2008 study found that 58% of Americans do not have a will. I find this number to be shocking. I know that death and dying is an unwelcome topic, however dying without a will is a really bad idea. This holds true whether you are worth millions or a lot less. Wills, trusts, and other estate planning tools give you the power to decide how to distribute your estate.
When an individual dies without a will (or when they have an incomplete will), their estate goes through intestacy, which basically means the state decides how your estate will be distributed. This is especially risky if you have step or adopted children as some state’s do not allow an adopted or stepchild to inherit in intestacy, or those non-biological children inherit less.
A recent article I read outlines the top 9 excuses for people gave for not making any type of estate plan:
(1)I don’t see a need for an estate plan
(2)I don’t plan on dying
(3)I don’t plan on dying – at least not soon
(4)I don’t want to pay for it
(5)I don’t want to spend the time
(6)I don’t want to talk about my family
(7)I don’t want to talk about my money
(8)I don’t want to ruin my kids
(9)I don’t trust my kids
As you can see, some of these excuses are just avoiding the inevitable. One of the beauties of estate planning is that you have the ability to change the majority of your plan as situations change. Without an estate plan, you are putting your finances and property at the mercy of a judge who has no idea what you and your family are like.
A recent LegalMatch study found that the majority of people interested in preparing for their future were more interested in overall estate planning than drafting a single will or trust. These findings make sense in that those individuals that are thinking about wills and estate planning are really trying to maximize the benefits and thus are creating more complicated schemes than just a will or trust; and those individuals who are not are in the majority and doing nothing to plan. In addition to the ability to specifically provide for your family and loved ones, there are tremendous tax benefits to creating a will and/or trust.
It is not necessarily that I think everyone needs to embrace their own death. Rather, I am advocating for embracing the lives you will leave on your death. Estate planning is such a powerful tool and for all the time that people spend worrying about money and their families in their lives they should take a little time and worry about them after they die too.