Almost every month I present an educational workshop called “The Truth About Estate Planning”. We start off our small group discussion citing similar horrible statistics. It is interesting to see that someone finally surveyed people to find out if their will was up to date. But, it appears that the definition of “up to date” used was rather narrow. A will was considered to be out of date for this survey if made before a person got married or had children. No one could argue with that.
But what about other life changes such as divorce, death of a family member, child becoming an addict, child taking on significant debt, child getting a divorce, a significant increase in net worth, a significant decrease in net worth, a change in the estate tax law, a change in other laws affecting estates, such as Florida’s Homestead law….and on and on. Using these broader concepts, I believe over 90% of Americans do not have an estate plan that will work when the time comes that it had better work.

Here are some of the highlights from the survey:
“We really wanted to explore this group after anecdotally hearing from people who had a Will, but had it written before they got married or had children,” explained Tim Hewson, CEO of Parting Wishes Inc., the parent company of USLegalWills.com. “In essence, although they technically had a Will, it was worthless.”

The survey showed a positive relationship between age and the probability of having a Will:
• 18-24: 85% do not have a Will, 10% have an out-of-date Will, and 5% have an up-to-date Will.
• 23-35: 80% do not have a Will, 6% have an out-of-date Will, and 14% have an up-to-date Will.
• 35-44: 67% do not have a Will, 8% have an out-of-date Will, and 25% have an up-to-date Will.
• 45-54: 53% do not have a Will, 11% have an out-of-date Will, and 36% have an up-to-date Will.
• 55-64: 52% do not have a Will, 8% have an out-of-date Will, and 40% have an up-to-date Will.
• 65+: 35% do not have a Will, 15% have an out-of-date Will, and 50% have an up-to-date Will.
Even when discounting younger adults, 53.5% of Americans aged 35 and older responded to not having a Will; 9.5% responded to having a Will that is out-of-date, leaving only 37% with a Will that reflects their current financial and personal situation.
The income group least likely to have up-to-date Wills was in the $100,000+ annual income range.
The income group most likely to have up-to-date Wills was in the annual income range of $25,000-$99,999.
There were no significant differences when comparing across gender, region, or urban density.

So, what do you do about it? Find an estate planning lawyer that provides a reasonably priced annual maintenance and updating program. Implement your plan and then keep it up to date every year. Without a regular program to keep your estate plan up to date, you and your family are in danger of becoming one of these dreadful statistics.

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