Hyden, Miron & Foster, PLLC Law Blog

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Study Shows More than Half of Americans Don’t Have an Estate Plan

Earlier this year a survey was conducted that revealed Americans are alarmingly unprepared for end-of-life issues.  Most don’t have any form of will, and only about half have a durable power of attorney.  This lack of preparation can have dramatic consequences, so for most Americans this should be a wake-up call to get around to making their own plans. Not sure where to start? Consider talking with an Arkansas estate-planning attorney about your particular situation.

What did the study show?

The Caring.com survey of over 1000 adults showed that only 42% of Americans have an estate plan such as a will or living trust.  As might be expected, the likelihood of having end-of-life plans varies greatly with age, with older Americans being significantly more likely to have such arrangements in place.  81% of people who are at least 72 years old have a will or living trust.  On the other hand, only 22% of “millennials” between the ages of 18 and 36 have made end-of-life plans.  And perhaps most shockingly, only 36% of parents with children under the age of 18 have wills or living trusts.

Why don’t most people have an estate plan?

According to the study, the most common reason people don’t have estate plans is that they simply haven’t gotten around to making one.  Another very common response was that they felt they didn’t own enough assets to make it worth it.  And it’s true—thinking about your own death is uncomfortable and can force you to answer difficult questions, which certainly contributes to our collective procrastination.  But avoiding the issue can potentially lead to tragic consequences.

Why should I have an estate plan?

The simplest reason everyone should have an estate plan is that regardless of how much or little you own, someone is going to have to decide what to do with it.  If you avoid making these decisions yourself, the government has a set of rules to make the decisions for you, and the process tends to be emotionally taxing on loved ones.  This is especially true for parents, who can use their wills to designate guardians for their children in case of a catastrophe.  If they don’t, it will be left up to a judge who should be the caretaker of their children.

Additionally, estate planning should address situations where you might be alive but incapacitated, such as being in a coma.  These arrangements are typically made through instruments such as advance medical directives and durable powers of attorney, which designate who should be authorized to make decisions on your behalf.  News outlets regularly carry tragic stories of family members and loved ones who are not allowed at the patient’s bedside and are denied information by medical staff because no legal arrangements have been made ahead of time.  Proper estate planning could prevent nearly all of these tragedies.

How can I make an estate plan?

Making an estate plan is a relatively quick and simple legal process, but like most legal processes it should be done with the guidance of an experienced attorney.  If you are in the majority of Americans who still need to get around to making their estate plans, call us today to arrange a case consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney at Hyden, Miron & Foster, PLLC.

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