Studies show that most Americans don’t have a Will

will and testament

A Will is the most common and basic estate planning document there is. Its function is to allow someone to give instructions on what to do with their possessions after they pass away. For decades, the portion of Americans who have a Will has steadily declined. A recurring Gallup poll shows that in 2020 just 46% of Americans had a Will, compared to 51% back in 2005.

Why is this happening? The most common reason appears to be good old-fashioned procrastination. Making a Will takes time and several visits to the lawyer’s office. Another prominent reason is someone’s belief that they don’t have enough money to worry about it.

While both of these excuses are understandable, it is important to remember that a will, similar to a funeral, is for the benefit of the living, not the deceased. A Will reduces the stress and aggravation that your loved ones go through and limits the involvement of a judge to settle your estate. A little time invested on your part today will have a large payoff to those who settle your affairs later. The reduction in time and stress is also why it makes sense to have a will, even if you don’t have a large net worth.

The importance of estate planning has taken on a greater priority with the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic. Recent studies have shown that message has been taken to heart by some, but not all.

A survey by Caring.com shows that the pandemic has spurred more young people to create a Will, while the number of middle-aged and older folks creating new Wills has remained more or less the same. Caring.com reports that “In 2020, only 16% of Americans ages 18-34 said they have a will or another estate planning document. In 2021, that percentage rose by 9 points – an increase of 63% in just one year”.

This difference in behavior may be because of both the pandemic and its side effects. A deadly virus can certainly cause one to consider one’s own mortality, an exercise many young people have never done. This, combined with the forced inactivity of lockdowns, likely made it both more important and feasible for many young people to get a Will.

How much do Wills cost? While the price varies based on your needs and the attorney you use, you should expect to pay about $500 on the low end to as much as $1,500 or more for more complex estates. Most Wills are created as part of an Estate Planning packet that includes other important estate documents such as Powers of Attorney and a Directive to Physicians. This price reflects the cost of the entire packet, not just a Will by itself.

As financial planners, we recommend that our clients have a Will in place. While it takes some time and money to craft and implement a well-written will, our experience is that having a will in place always benefits our clients and their families. 

Financial planners are not attorneys and don’t actually create Wills and other legal documents. That work is best performed by a competent estate planning attorney. However, a good financial planner will assist you in thinking through how you want to handle your affairs and help you get prepared for your initial visit with the attorney. 

If you are on the fence about making your Will or have an old Will that needs updating, but you don’t know where to start, we would be happy to walk you through the process.  Click on the link below to schedule a call with Galen or Steve to get started.

Stayed tuned next time for our upcoming article, “How a Will Actually Works”.

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