Thursday, July 03, 2008

Surveys Show Most Lack Last Will

On June 30, 2008, FindLaw released results of its recent survey indicating that "[f]ifty-eight percent of American adults have not written a will, giving them little control or input into issues such as what will happen to their assets and any minor children after they die."

The survey results were announced in a Press Release, dated June 30, 2008, entitled "Most Americans Don't Have a Will, Says New Survey" posted by PRNewswire.

The survey found that people are more likely to have a will as they get older. More than half of Americans age 50 and older have a will.

But the numbers steadily drop among younger adults. Only about a quarter of people between the ages of 25 and 34 have a will. Among Americans between the ages of 18 and 24, the figure drops to less than ten percent. * * *

These results from a 2008 polling are consistent with results from a 2005 survey conducted for that same organization, as summarized in a Press Release, dated May 10, 2005, entitled "Most Americans Lack Proper Estate Planning, Says New Survey".
According to the survey, the majority of Americans -- 55 percent -- don't have a will to specify the handling of their estate after they die.

Two- thirds of Americans -- 67 percent -- lack a living will in case they become incapacitated or terminally ill. In addition, those with a will often fail to keep the document updated. * * *

FindLaw provides general legal information about wills, trusts and estate planning.

These statistics about persons lacking key estate planning documents show lower percentages than reported in surveys conducted by LegalZoom.

A Press Release issued September 12, 2007, entitled " National Survey Finds Americans Still Lack Basic Protection; Three out of Four Parents Have Not Prepared a Last Will", indicated that "seven out of 10 Americans, or 70.2 percent, lacked a Last Will and Testament."
According to the survey, This number is nearly identical to returns from previous years, showing that Americans remain largely unprotected today. The survey also found that 20 percent of all respondents had not updated their Will for half a decade or more.

Most strikingly, the study showed that parents with minor children were less likely to have prepared a Last Will than other individuals.

A possible contributing factor: nearly one out of five respondents with minor children cited guardianship issues as a deterrent to preparing a Last Will.

Similarly, 42.3 percent of respondents had not decided who would serve as a guardian to their children in the event of their death.

As a result, 74.4 percent of parents still did not have a Last Will and Testament, despite the fact that 79 percent of parents noted the importance of creating this legal document. * * *
Where no Last Will or Trust Agreement is in place by older parents, do their grown-up kids initiate an estate planning discussion with their parents and help them through that process?

Another survey, conducted in April, 2008, also by LegalZoom, revealed that "the creation of a last will or living trust is one of the most avoided topics between younger members of the Boomer generation and their parents."

The results of this survey were summarized in a Press Release, dated May 6, 2008, entitled "National Survey Reveals Tail-End Boomers Avoid Participating in Parents' Estate Planning" posted by BusinessWire:
Adults in their 60s are the most likely to participate in creating their parents' last will or living trust. Over half, 53%, participated in their parents' estate planning, with 34% initiating the conversation and 34% contributing to the actual cost of creating a last will or living trust.

By contrast, younger Boomers in their 40s are the least likely to participate in their parents' estate planning. Only 27% participated in the process of creating a last will and living trust, with 18% initiating the conversation and 17% contributing to the cost. * * *

The survey also revealed that there is a perception among younger Boomers that "other" people will take responsibility for helping their parents with their last will or living trust. Survey respondents noted that one of the reasons they haven't participated in their parents' estate planning is because they believe it is the responsibility of their older or geographically-closer sibling. * * *

Here's the point: Plan your estate, and sign proper testamentary documents. Professionals can help, whoever initiates that process.