Covid has been a reality check for many of us: A brutal demonstration that life can turn upside down in an instant, and that no one is invincible. But if you think that knowledge would spur most people who do not have an estate plan to create one, you’d be wrong. A 2021 survey, conducted by caring.com and yougov, reveals that while the pandemic has heightened many people’s awareness of the need to plan, that awareness has not necessarily translated into action to create one.
The poll surveyed 2,500 Americans in various age groups to assess their attitudes toward estate planning and determine if they had an estate plan. Here are some basic takeaways.
Key Survey Findings
- Two thirds of Americans feel it is important to have an estate plan. Yet, despite the pandemic, 2 out of 3 Americans still do not have even a will.
- In 2021 the number of Americans with estate planning documents actually declined. A little over 30% had documents in 2021; in 2017, it was just over 40%.
- Why do people say they don’t have an estate plan? Four main reasons were cited.
Haven’t gotten around to it
Don’t have enough assets
Creating a plan is too expensive
Don’t know to go about setting up a plan
- When respondents were asked if they felt greater pressure to create a will because of Covid, 65% said no; 11% said yes, but had taken no action. Just 24% felt greater pressure and followed up by getting a will done.
- Interestingly, those ages 18-34 were the most likely to follow through on creating a plan, saying that Covid made them realize that estate planning is not just for older people. For the first time in history of the caring.com survey, 18-34 year olds were more likely to have a will than 35-54 year olds. In the 18-34 age group, 45% had taken action; in the 35-54 age group, 35%; and the oldest respondents, just 28%.
- The numbers seem to be going in the wrong direction for the 55 + age group. In the 2019 survey, the percentage in that age group with an estate plan was 60%. In 2021, it is only 44%.
Why Do You Need an Estate Plan?
Everyone needs a basic estate plan – at least a will. A valid will ensures that your assets will end up with the people you want to get them. If you pass away without a will, the State of Florida will distribute your probatable assets (i.e., those without a co-owner or death beneficiary) based on state intestacy law. Those laws are based entirely on blood line (although adopted children have status equal to biological children). Here are the guidelines the state uses if you have:
- A spouse and children with that spouse: Spouse inherits 100%
- A spouse and children with someone other than the spouse: Spouse inherits 50%; children inherit 50%
- No spouse: Children inherit 100%
- No spouse or children: Your assets will go to your parents, then siblings, then your siblings’ children, then more distant relatives
- If no relatives can be located: The State of Florida inherits 100%
How Intestacy May End Up In Conflict With Your Wishes
Depending on your circumstances, if you pass away without a will, Florida intestacy law may not distribute your assets as you would like. Consider these scenarios:
- You have a longtime partner but are not married to him/her. You would like to protect your partner. However, under Florida law your partner is not entitled to anything from your estate.
- You do not have a spouse but you have three children, one of whom has not been in touch with you in years. Under intestacy law, each of your three children will get an equal share. You may have preferred to cut out the estranged child.
- Would you like your favorite charity to get something? That won’t happen if you don’t have a plan.
- You have raised a stepchild like your own but have not legally adopted him/her. Since that child is not a blood relative, he/she inherits nothing.
Take Action Now
As the survey notes, the most commonly cited reason for not having an estate plan is “Haven’t gotten around to it.” Isn’t it time you got around to it? The attorneys of The Karp Law Firm will be delighted to help you accomplish it. We will listen to you, talk with you about your goals and circumstances, and create a plan that serve your needs. Reach us at (561) 625-1100 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read the Caring.com survey in its entirety, click here.