America’s Lack of Will(s)

This is part one of a two-part series on your will and divorce. Part one covers the importance of having a will and part two will discuss what happens to your will when you divorce.

The business website MainSt put it harshly, but accurately, with a headline that reads: “You Don’t Love Your Family If You Don’t Have A Will in Place.” Failing to get your will, trust, and estate documents regularly updated is only going to cause more pain and be a burden on your loved ones when you pass.

If you die with no official will, your state’s laws will dictate where your property goes. For example, if you die with no living relatives, rather than your assets going to a friend or charity, your property will most likely be handed over to the state and the state will dictate who takes your children.

A new study from found that Americans aren’t nearly as prepared as they should be in regards to protecting their assets:

  • Only about half of all American parents (56 percent) have a will or living trust
  • Nearly one-third of parents (27 percent) don’t have estate documents set up
  • Sixteen percent of adult children are unsure if their parents have these documents in place.
  • Over half of American children don’t know where their parents keep their estate documents

Who is the most prepared?

  • Females are more likely to be informed about the contents of their documents than men
  • However, men are more likely to know where the documents are stored
  • Republicans are more likely than Democrats or Independents to have a parent with a will or living trust

Political affiliations and gender aside, everyone should have their legal documents to determine how your property is divided. It should go without saying that you should meet with an attorney to ensure that you are following your specific state’s requirements and are sufficiently covering all of your bases.

Prior to meeting with your attorney, make a list of all of your assets, compile your important documents (such as copies of insurance policies, 401ks, and real estate deeds), start thinking about your executor and children’s guardian if applicable, and prepare a list of questions for your attorney.

Even after you create your will, treat it as a living document that needs continual updates. Births, marriages, or deaths in regards to your loved ones, your own change of residence, or a change in your finances will affect your will.

I can’t stress enough that this is just a very brief overlook of the importance of preparing your will and the very basic steps that go into the process. For more detailed information about setting up a will, please contact an attorney for a more thorough discussion.