Most adults would agree with the claim that estate planning is a smart and necessary step for someone to take. They know that an estate plan is how someone chooses a guardian for their children and beneficiaries who will receive their assets when they die. They may even understand that estate planning can protect them in an emergency if they cannot speak on their own behalf.
Despite that awareness, a shockingly large percentage of adults fail to draft estate planning paperwork before something happens to them. What percentage of adults do not have a valid will or other testamentary documents?
A majority of adults do not have an estate plan
Younger adults would typically benefit from estate plans, but they may have a hard time recognizing their own vulnerability. People often delay estate planning until they have dependent family members who rely on them for support or major resources that they want to leave for a specific person.
Even when someone starts preparing for retirement, they may still find reasons to delay estate planning. Roughly half of adults who are nearing retirement age do not have a written estate plan. While that is lower than the more than two-thirds of all adults without a will, it is still surprisingly low. Those preparing for retirement are often more aware of their mortality and the possible major costs of long-term care than younger people. Despite that awareness, they still put off estate planning.
What happens without an estate plan?
If someone dies without an estate plan, the law determines what happens to their property. Specific family members, including spouses and children, will likely inherit all of the property from their estate.
Family members will frequently fight over the resources left behind by someone without an estate plan to clarify their personal preferences. Children and other dependent family members could be at risk of foster placements if there is no guardian named to support them. If someone experiences health challenges, not having an estate plan might mean that someone who does not have their best interests at heart is able to obtain a guardianship over them.
Learning from the mistakes of others can help those who want to be proactive about protecting their interests and legacy to make the best decisions for their circumstances.