50% of Parents Do Not Have a Will

If you died tomorrow, who would inherit your items of wealth…your car…your home…your investments?  With so many Americans looking for ways to save a buck, this sobering statistic is alarming in that many estates are reduced significantly when the decedent fails to create so much as a Last Will and Testament.

50% of American adults with children haven’t prepared a Last Will and Testament.  As a result, they are leaving the decisions regarding where their items of wealth to a judge and the default laws in their state of residence.  A recent RocketLawyer.com survey found that 50% of Americans with children do not have a Will…yet 80% of the same population has a cell phone.  Even more alarming, 41% of baby boomers (age 55-64); those nearing their natural life expectancy, don’t have an estate plan either. The top three reasons cited by survey respondents for not having a Will: (1) procrastination, (2) a belief that they don’t need one and (3) cost.
Let’s address each excuse.  (1) If you have been putting off the creation of a Last Will and Testament, please remember you will die one day.  If that isn’t sobering enough, please remember that someone will decide what happens to your estate.  If you don’t take action to set forth a plan, your assets will be under the direction and control of someone you are unrelated to and he/she will not have any sympathy for sentimental value or your oral proclamations while still alive.  (2) Everyone needs a Will.  Regardless of your wealth, your assets cannot reach your loved ones swiftly if you fail to direct their distribution.  (3) If cost is the reason you cite for not taking this important step, you should know the cost of a Will package at our firm is less than the average annual insurance premium on a car.  Think of that….for the cost of your car insurance in one year, you can protect everything you own from waste or  control by those you don’t know.

So what happens if you die without a Will (known as dying “intestate”)? A state court will decide how your property is distributed, what measures will be taken to preserve or sell your items, and what expenses will decrease the value of the remainder enjoyed by your loved ones.  Who in their right minds would voluntarily allow others to control and distribute the wealth it took them a lifetime to obtain?

Our changing societal norms and demographic patterns also make the establishment of an estate plan critical.  More and more people are divorcing or refusing to marry.  If these unmarried parties enjoy a child in common, the surviving partner doesn’t receive the same protections that are provided by law for a married couple.

Contact our firm to discuss your first step – be prepared to take the following measures

– List your significant assets, financial advisors, retirement plans, divorce papers, premarital agreements, and any other such documents.
– Gather employment benefits statements, life insurance policies, deeds to real property, partnership and business agreements and the last two years of income tax returns.
– If you’re married, each spouse makes a separate will.
– Decide who will inherit your property. After you make your first choices, choose alternate beneficiaries, too, in case your first choices don’t survive you.
– Choose a personal representative (f/k/a executor or executrix) to administer your estate.  Be sure to let that person know you want them to serve as personal representative so it’s not a surprise.

– If your children are under 18, decide who you want to raise them in the event that you and their other parent can’t. You should also pick someone who can manage your children’s property.
– Identify other decision makers to carry out your health & money choices for you if you’re incapacitated.