Today's topic is estate planning. I came across a survey performed by Lexis Nexis in 2011, and wish to re-post some portions of the report here, because I think the points it makes are important.
Survey Finds Most Americans Recognize the Importance of a Will or Estate Planning, Yet Few Have Necessary Documents in Place
Results Show Less Than Forty Percent of Parents with Minor Children Have Wills
July 19, 2011 — NEW YORK - A new national survey commissioned on behalf of LexisNexis®, finds the majority of Americans (60 percent) believe that all adults should have a will or estate planning documents in place, yet only 44 percent report that they currently have any such documents. In stark contrast, more than one third (36 percent) of Americans with minor children do not believe that wills or estate plans are among the most important documents to have on hand. Rather, adults with minors in the household rank birth certificates (76 percent) and titles/deeds for property and vehicles (70 percent) as the most important. In addition, although the majority of parents with minors in the household (75 percent) understand that a court will decide who the children’s legal guardian becomes if there is no will at the time of both parents’ death, only 39 percent have any estate planning documents in place.
"The 2011 Wills & Estate Planning survey shows parents may not be taking the necessary steps to ensure their wishes for the care of their children and estate are followed in the event that both parents were to pass, for example due to an accident," said David Palmieri, vice president and managing director of Marketing and Consumer Solutions at LexisNexis. "Additional research indicates that many parents consider wills to be more appropriate for those with significant wealth and as a result, they risk leaving the fate of their children in the hands of the courts instead of being directed by an enforceable legal document."
Reasons given for not making a will or estate planning a priority vary widely. According to the survey, 37 percent of Americans cite a current focus on "essentials," such as paying bills and buying groceries, as the top reason they don’t have any estate planning documents. Other reasons cited by survey respondents include:
- Not necessary (18 percent)
- Too complicated to deal with right now (16 percent)
- Too expensive (14 percent)
- Belief that their spouse and/or children will automatically receive any assets that they have (13 percent)
- Too time consuming (6 percent)
Other findings indicate that age and gender play a role in whether a person has a will or estate planning documents. For example, the majority of Americans report that they are most concerned about preserving their health (70 percent) and having enough money to retire (50 percent) as opposed to protecting their financial assets (43 percent), while women are more likely to be concerned about maintaining their weight (47 percent) than protecting their financial assets (44 percent).
Additionally, Americans 18-34 years old are more likely to report that they are most concerned about preserving their health (64 percent), having enough money to retire (52 percent) and maintaining their weight (51 percent) rather than protecting their financial assets (44 percent). Interestingly, one in five Americans 18-34 years old (22 percent) believe it is becoming less important to have wills because people are living longer, healthier lives.
There is no need for me to repeat any of the messages of the above article-- they speak for themselves. Let me just say that everyone should have an estate plan, regardless of your age and stage of life. Parents of minor children should provide for guardians and create trusts to manage assets until the children come to an age which is appropriate for them to inherit a potentially large sum. Older folks should put their affairs in order as a true and huge gift to their surviving children upon death. These are just two examples of classes of people who should do estate planning, but it applies to anyone and everyone with assets and opinions about where those assets should go upon death. So delay no longer--- call me to get started on that estate plan you have been putting off for any number of years. You will not be sorry.