Study Shows Most Americans Unprepared
Are you prepared? The majority of Americans are not. In the event of illness, injury, or death most American families would be in a real mess. Would yours be?
- Only 26% of Americans have General Durable Powers of Attorney. A General Durable Power of Attorney allows someone to make decisions for you if you become temporarily or permanently disabled. For example, if you are in an auto accident and cannot sign a check, your agent under the power of attorney can sign for you to pay your mortgage, medical bills, etc. Unfortunately, 74% of Americans would be stuck without this ability.
- Similarly, only 27% of Americans have Health Care Powers of Attorney. Such a power of attorney designates an agent to make health care decisions for you when you are unable to make them for yourself. If you arrive at an emergency room unconscious, do you know who would have authority to make decisions for you? Depending on the state and your family circumstances, it could be a family member with whom you have lost contact. With a Health Care Power of Attorney, you can select someone you trust to make these decisions which are central to your well-being. A Living Will is sometimes combined with this power of attorney and expresses wishes regarding termination of life support in the event you are in a terminal condition. Only 31% of Americans have this document.
- Upon your death, you really can’t take it with you, so all your property must get transferred to someone else through a process called “probate.” The probate process can be needlessly cumbersome and expensive, but it can be avoided through the use of a Revocable Living Trust. Such a trust holds title to property so that at your death it is not legally owned by you and, thus, avoids probate. Only 21% of Americans have such a trust. The families of the other 79% may have to take a number at the probate court.
- Even if you do not have a trust, you can control who gets your property by having a Will. A Will does not avoid probate, but it does designate who gets your property. Without a Will, you are “intestate” and your property gets distributed according to a priority list set forth by your state government. That may be okay if your state legislature happens to have set up the list exactly as you would have. Of course, this exact match rarely happens. In some cases, such as unmarried partners, the distribution scheme may be totally different than what you would want. Only 42% of Americans even have a Will.
In this case, being part of the majority is not a good thing. A little thought and effort now can make your family’s situation much easier in the event of disability or death, when your family would already have tremendous emotional strain. It’s the smart thing to do. It’s the loving thing to do. It’s the right thing to do. A qualified estate planning attorney can help you do the right thing, easily and quickly.
Tab Artis is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys and has been engaged in the practice of law for the last fourteen years. For more information or to attend an upcoming seminar, click HERE to be directed to The Artis Law Firm’s Workshops page.