What Estate Planning in the U.S Looks Like

Estate planning is often a topic that people want to avoid. It is an unfortunate part of reality that can have catastrophic effects on the remaining family members and friends if not addressed properly. It is something that so few Americans actually take the time to do and it there is a huge misconception about when planning should take place. Take a look at Richard Eisenberg’s opinion on our “ostrich approach” to estate planning.

Incredibly, 51 percent of Americans age 55 to 64 don’t have wills, according to a survey released today by Rocket Lawyer, a website that offers low-cost legal services.

Worse, 62 percent of those age 45 to 54 – and 67 percent of women that age – haven’t drafted wills. (These numbers are slightly better than for Americans in general; Rocket Lawyer says 64 percent of the public doesn’t have a will, up from 57 percent in 2011, but that figure includes people in their late teens and 20s, so I don’t take it quite as seriously.)

I’m fairly certain I don’t need to tell you what happens after you die if you don’t have a will, but I’ll do so just in case.

If you die without will – or, as lawyers call it, “intestate” – there’s no guarantee who will inherit your assets. Generally, if you were married with kids, your surviving spouse and children will then inherit your assets. If you had minor children, the state will choose their guardians. If you were single and childless, your state will likely determine which of your relatives will inherit your financial assets and property.

What’s more, without a will, your estate will go into probate, a costly, slow-moving process the courts use to sort things out.

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