Gallup’s latest poll indicates that despite the traumatic lessons of the pandemic, the percentage of American’s who have created a will has remained about the same for the past three decades. Here are the trends—and encouragements for action.
Who Has a Will? Who Doesn’t?
According to Gallup, just under half of U.S. adults have a will: 46%. Although this figure hit 51% in 2005, essentially, about the same number of adults have had wills since 1990. As Gallup reports:
Americans aged 65 and older are the most likely subgroup to have a will, with just over three-quarters saying they have one. Each younger age group is significantly less likely to have a will then the previous one, including just 20% of adults under age 30. Additionally, upper-income Americans are much more likely than lower-income Americans to report having a will.There are also large differences by education and race, with greater proportions of college graduates and White Americans than college nongraduates and non-White Americans saying they have a will.
Of course there are millions of reasons why we don’t get around to making wills—including being busy and stressed in the here and now. Thinking about the best we can do for our families and loved ones often spurs action. It may be motivating to know, for example, that when we seek legal help to create a will, we can simultaneously attend to other important matters, such as preparing a living will. Sometimes also referred to as a healthcare power of attorney, a living will specifies our preferences for medical treatment should we become incapacitated. Gallup’s findings show that the percent of U.S. adults with living wills is similar to that of those with wills—45%. Without a living will, we of course risk causing even more stress and grief for family members if disaster strikes.
Another important aspect of making a will is naming an executor, sometimes termed a personal representative, to oversee our affairs when we die. The opportunity to designate and prepare our executor in advance is another way to lessen the stress for our grieving loved ones. Keep in mind too, that especially when are means are modest, ensuring that they are efficiently distributed according to our intentions, can be life changing in families. Paying off debt or student loans, having a down payment for a home or starting a savings account are all examples of what a thoughtfully planned will can set in motion.
Though the process differs a bit in each state, generally, it is your executor, who will file your death certificate with an original copy of your will in probate court. The executor will then be given a letter of testamentary and can then begin taking actions on your affairs—like paying off bills before distributing assets. Executors have a fiduciary obligation to act in the best interests of the estate and beneficiaries, avoiding conflicts of interest. That’s why probate courts sometimes request executors to obtain a type of fiduciary bond known as an executor or estate bond.
Let Colonial Surety Company, a leading national fiduciary bond provider, help. At Colonial, the steps to obtaining executor and other bonds are quick and easy: get a quote online, fill out the information, and enter the payment method. Instantly print or e-file the bond right from anywhere—even probate court. Obtain an Executor Bond Here.
Avoid Conflict and Delay
Unless your affairs are complex, when there is a will, the probate process commonly takes a few months to a year. Many states have even developed expedited processes, especially for modest estates. Be mindful that unpaid taxes, debts and conflicts among family members are examples of what can cause complexities and delays during probate. For example, the family of legendary singer James Brown, has only recently reached agreement on settling his affairs, after 15 years of legal battles. Among other challenges, claims by unmarried life partners contributed to costly delays on the path to executing Brown’s intentions.
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