As an estate planning attorney, I often wonder and am asked what percentage of Americans have an estate plan? conducted a national survey that answers the question.  Here are some of the findings of the survey:

  • 35% have a will, down from 45% in 2007
  • 18% have a trust, down from 31% in 2007
  • 29% have a power of attorney (financial or healthcare), down from 46% in 2007

The biggest reason given for ignoring estate planning was the downturn in the economy.  People are more concerned about spending money on more immediate needs.  Here is the bottom line from the article:

“There's a disconnect between public perception of the cost and complexity of creating estate planning documents and the straightforward, affordable choices that are out there for consumers looking to equip themselves with a will and estate plan,”

Reasons cited for not having an estate plan were:

  • not enough assets (ignores problems for loved ones if person becomes incapacited or if parents die with minor children)
  • do not like to think about death or incapacity (who does, but when people ignore these facts of life, it's their loved ones that suffer)
  • belief everything will be ok if they die (I call this the head in the sand, ignore my loved ones approach)
  • not aware of wills, trusts and related estate planning documents

Yes, these are difficult times.  Yes sometimes people just do not have the money to purchase a comprehensive estate plan.  Nevertheless, it is always the family and loved ones that suffer.after a death or incapacity.

Estate planning is a form of asset protection for family and loved ones.  Without a comprehensive estate plan, your family and loved ones may have to spend thousands of dollars that could have been avoided with a good estate plan and they may suffer emotional trauma that could have be eliminated or reduced with proper planning.  In Arizona, the cost to obtain a court order naming a spouse as the conservator of the assets of an incapacitated spouse can be thousands of dollars in attorneys fees and court costs and it may take much too long to obtain the order.  The cost of a probate can exceed the cost of a good estate plan.  Do you really want to leave your family unprotected?  It's your family that will suffer if you were to die or become incapacitated.

Forbes has an article on the survey called “Americans Lack Basic Estate Plans.”  For more on estate planning, see my Estate Planning Library.