Estate planning is an important activity for all adults. Someone who has just turned 18 and plans to leave for college may need an estate plan. Someone who just got married or who had a baby would also likely benefit from an estate plan to put protections in place for their dependent family members. Those preparing for retirement often put together estate planning documents that address incapacity, long-term care needs and their final legacy after they die.
Despite being useful for people in many different stages of life, estate plans are something most people procrastinate about creating. It is easy for otherwise responsible adults to convince themselves they don’t need to address their own mortality yet. Unfortunately, the people they love may end up paying the price for their procrastination.
More than two-thirds of Americans die without a will
According to recent research, a majority of adults in the United States do not have wills or other testamentary documents in place. Approximately 67% of adults in the United States die without a valid estate plan. Their family members and other loved ones will then likely face significant challenges during the probate process. If someone dies without a will, intestate succession laws dictate what happens next. Often, spouses and children will be the only parties to inherit from an estate if someone does not create their own documents.
Those who do not marry their romantic partners or who want to leave resources for friends, grandchildren or charitable organizations need to recognize that doing so is almost impossible if they do not draft legally valid estate planning documents.
At the very least, most adults would benefit from drafting a will. A more comprehensive assortment of documents including powers of attorney, trusts and advance directives for medical care can offer the most robust protection possible. Learning from the mistakes of others may inspire people to engage in estate planning before it is too late.