Majority of American Adults Remain Without Wills, New lawyers.comSM Survey Finds
Significant Increase Seen in Adults with Medical Directives in Place, Research Shows
April 3, 2007 — New York, NY, April 3, 2007 - You can’t take it with you, according to the adage, but many Americans seem to be planning to do just that.
That’s because over half (55 percent) of all adult Americans do not have a will, a new survey shows, a percent that has remained virtually unchanged over the past three years.
The survey on estate planning was conducted by Harris Interactive® for Martindale-Hubbell® (www.martindale.com ), lawyers.comSM (www.lawyers.com ), the most comprehensive and trustworthy online resource for finding lawyers.
A will– an expressed intention of what should be done with one’s property after death – is typically the first document considered in an individual’s estate plan.
Among non-white adults, the lack of wills is even more pronounced. Only one in three African American adults (32 percent) and one in four Hispanic American adults (26 percent) have wills, compared to more than half (52 percent) of white American adults.
“Surprisingly, the majority of Americans still aren’t planning for the distribution of their estate after death,” said Alan Kopit, a lawyers.com legal editor. “Virtually every adult dies possessing some form of property, but without a will, it’s up to the state to decide how those assets are distributed – which may not reflect an individual’s actual desires. People often attach the need for a will to having a lot of assets, which reflects a misunderstanding about a will’s actual function.”
Living Wills, Power of Attorneys for Healthcare Rise in Popularity
Living wills (also known as medical directives) have jumped in popularity since 2004. Two in five adults (41 percent) now have living wills in place, a full ten percent more than those who had one just three years ago. Living wills dictate individuals’ directions for receiving life-sustaining medical intervention in the event of grave illness or injury.
Additionally, two in five (38 percent) American adults report assigning a power of attorney for healthcare purposes, compared to 27 percent in 2004. A power of attorney for healthcare legally delegates authority to another to make medical decisions for that individual, if he or she is incapacitated.
“Issues surrounding medical decisions for terminally ill or injured people have received a great deal of news coverage in recent years, likely prompting increased interest in the legal documents that address such situations,” said Kopit. “In preparing a living will and accompanying power of attorney for healthcare, you’re clarifying your desires unequivocally. With minimal advance preparations and costs, loved ones can be spared from difficult decisions and uncertainties during emotional times.”
Other Survey Findings:
• Ignorance is bliss: One in ten (10 percent) American adults
who do not have any elements of an estate plan say it’s
because they don’t want to think about dying or becoming
• Where to begin?: Similarly, nearly one in ten (9 percent)
adults say they don’t have an estate plan in place because
they don’t know who to talk to about creating such
documents. This percentage nearly doubled from 2004
• But I don’t need a will: Nearly one in four (24 percent) of
adults say their biggest reason for not having an estate
plan is a lack of sufficient assets. This was also the top
reason cited in the 2004 survey (21 percent).
About the Survey
This survey was conducted by telephone within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of lawyers.com betwe