Drafting a will is perhaps one of the most important parts of any estate plan. It ensures that your money, property, and other assets will be distributed to the people you want to receive them after your death. Even so, around two-thirds of adults in the US have no will. Why are so many Americans paying no heed to such crucial estate planning? It might be because no one wants to face their own mortality. Or it could be that people are simply too busy with day-to-day life and assume there’s plenty of time for planning later. Unfortunately, this indifference comes with a cost. What’s the cost of dying without a will? As it turns out – a lot.
According to a recent survey conducted by Caring.com, while the majority of Americans acknowledge the importance of estate planning, they overwhelmingly choose to skip it altogether. Here are some quick stats:
Why are so many Americans dying without a will? According to the study:
If you die without a will (or, dying “intestate”), your assets will be frozen until your estate is settled in accordance with state law. Since each state’s laws on intestacy are different, no two situations are alike. However, you can generally expect assets to be distributed using a hierarchy of survivors (first to a spouse, then to children, then your siblings, and so on). Of course, it’s not always as easy as simply counting up the assets, then divvying them up among family members. Dying without a will can lead to a very long, and quite possibly expensive, process for your family. Here are just a few consequences of neglecting your estate plan:
It’s true. Estate planning…writing a will…it can take up some of your time. It can even be complicated, especially if you have a lot of assets and more than one heir to consider. Be that as it may, the time-suck and attorney fees you’ll incur getting prepared will be next-to-nothing compared to what your family goes through if you have no plan at all. Spare your spouse, children, and favorite nieces and nephews further grief and save them some money by having your will written as soon as possible. When’s the best time to write a will? Right now.
If you’re looking for help with wills or other parts of estate planning, then check out these resources:
Originally published April 27, 2023
Bob Carlson, America's leading retirement expert, reveals the big secret the IRS won't tell you.