Close to 60 percent of American adults have prepared no legal documents to specify what should happen with their assets if they die. According to a study, just 42 percent of themhave an estate planning document completed. For individuals who have minor children, only 36 percent had an end-of-life plan.
One reason that many individuals may put off creating a will is that they do not want to contemplate their own death. However, having a will in place will not only assist surviving family members by taking care of financial matters, it can prevent the emotional stress that is common in those who have to address financial issues so soon after losing a loved one.
In the study, which was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, 1,003 adults were asked if they currently had estate planning documents and if the answer was no, they were asked to provide a reason. Nearly 50 percent of the survey participants who had no estate planning documents revealed procrastination as the reason, an admission that is no surprise to experts, who assert that the avoidance of end-of-life planning was not based just on fear. The results of the study also indicated that it is the older Americans who tend to have an estate plan. Eighty-one percent of the survey participants who were 72 or older had a will or living trust. The percentage was much lower for younger individuals.
An attorney with estate planning experience can evaluate clients' financial circumstances, consider their goals for their assets and then provide advice as to the appropriate documents to use. There are other tools in addition to wills or trusts that might be advisable, including health care and financial powers of attorney.