Preparing for the end of life is one of those things you know you should do — but have you actually sat down and done it? Probably not, according to a new survey from Caring.com, which found that only 4 in 10 American adults have a will or living trust. Happily, older adults appear to lead the pack in readying these important documents.
While most U.S. adults age 18 and over have not done the needful, 81 percent of those age 72 or older and 58 percent of boomers (ages 53-71) do, in fact, have estate-planning documents. The study, conducted in January, asked more than 1,000 respondents whether they had estate-planning documents in case of their death.
The results suggest that “as people age … they face the reality that having an estate plan is important and they’re getting the job done,” says elder law attorney Sally Hurme, author of Checklist for My Family: A Guide to My History, Financial Plans and Final Wishes.
It’s important for younger people to have wills, too, points out Hurme, especially if they have children, to ensure that they’ll be cared for by the people the parents want as guardians in the event of their death. Yet a whopping 78 percent of millennials (ages 18-36) and 64 percent of Generation Xers (ages 37-52) do not have a will.
More people are proactive about their health care power of attorney, which grants someone legal authority to make medical decisions for you if you’re incapacitated. A little over half of adults have a power of attorney in place, according to the survey, with 83 percent of people over age 72 having this document compared with 41 percent of millennials.
Why do so many people fail to tackle or complete estate planning? The top two reasons of the people surveyed: They “hadn’t gotten around to it” (47 percent), and they “don’t have enough assets to leave to anyone” (29 percent).
Excuses aside, Hurme advises that everyone make the time to get their end-of-life documents and plans in order. Even a do-it-yourself will is fine — if there’s little likelihood anyone will contest it.
And don’t neglect your health care power of attorney, which, she says, “is more important for your personal well being than a will.” The health care power of attorney is “all about you, before you die. A will is only about dividing up your property when you’re not around.”