Most adults in the United States don’t have wills. While the percentage who have made provisions for their heirs increases with age, the numbers still aren’t encouraging. A study conducted by Caring.com revealed that only 42% of U.S. adults had basic estate planning documents like a will or living trust. And, that percentage increased to just 58% among those aged 53-71. Further, only 36% of parents with minor children have wills.
Why So Many Americans Fail to Make a Will
People fail to make wills for many reasons. Unfortunately, many of these reasons are misguided or founded in popular myths about estate planning.
Myth # 1: I Have Plenty of Time to Make a Will
Many people simply delay estate planning because they’re relatively young and healthy, and so believe they have plenty of time to make a will and other provisions, such as health care and financial powers of attorney. In fact, this is true for most people in their twenties and thirties. Unfortunately, none of us knows whether we’ll be the exception. No one wants to think about the possibility of untimely death or incapacity. Still, it happens. For instance, about 100 people in the United States die in car accidents every day.
When the unexpected happens, the stress on surviving family members can be significantly aggravated if the lost family member failed to plan for the future.
Myth #2: I Don’t Have Enough Assets to Need a Will
It’s common for young adults just starting out in their careers and working-class people to believe they don’t own enough to worry about making a will. However, most people who say, “I don’t own anything,” or “I don’t have anything to leave behind” are wrong. Even if the dollar amounts are small, most people have vehicles, bank accounts, and personal property. Even if the property left behind has little monetary value, it has to pass to someone, and someone has to be responsible for distributing the property and closing the books on the estate.
If you don’t make a will, create a living trust, or otherwise provide for the distribution of your property, it will pass according to the Ohio laws of intestate succession, which may have a very different result than you would have chosen.
Myth #3: My Assets Will Automatically Go the People Closest to Me, Anyway
Many people believe that the laws of intestate succession will match up with their intentions, and so the result will be the same whether they write a will or not. Sometimes, that’s true. In other cases, distribution through intestate succession may conflict with what the deceased would have planned, and may be very disruptive for heirs. For example, under some circumstances, the full balance of the estate passes to the surviving spouse. But, under other circumstances, the estate may be split. These complications typically arise in blended families, where the deceased had one or more children with someone other than the surviving spouse.
Planning Ahead is a Gift to Your Family
It’s never too soon to make a will. As soon as you have independent property, even if it’s just a checking account, a car, some books and a few albums of family photos, it’s to your advantage to make your wishes known in a legally binding manner. However, at that stage of life, the inconvenience to family members may be limited if you fail to plan ahead.
On the other hand, you should take charge of your estate plan as soon as possible if:
- You have minor children
- You’re divorced, have children with someone other than your spouse, or have stepchildren you want to provide for
- You have specific assets, such as real estate or personal property, that you want to leave to a specific person
The sudden loss of a loved one is both stressful and emotional. Often, this type of trauma triggers conflict among family members. When the deceased failed to make a will or other arrangements, uncertainty about his or her wishes and disagreement over the disposition of assets can aggravate that stress and cause lasting rifts among adult children and other family members.
To learn more about making a will and the other estate planning documents that might be necessary to protect yourself and your family, schedule a free consultation right now with our expert estate planning and probate lawyers. Just call 440-946-7656 or complete the contact form on this site to get started.
The information presented in this post is not legal advice and does not form a lawyer/client relationship. Laws and circumstances can differ and change.
Please contact us for a personal review of your situation