Anyone who may die or become incapacitated (in other words all of us) needs to plan their affairs. But, who actually does it?
The American Association of Retired Persons conducted a survey in April 2000 of people aged fifty and over on that very topic. It found that sixty percent had at least a will, forty-five percent had durable powers of attorney for financial matters, twenty-three percent had a trust, and only seventeen percent had all three.
What do you think is the factor that correlates best with having done estate planning? Age? Income? Education? All three are correlative. Someone aged 70 is about 48% more likely to have done a simple estate plan like a will than someone twenty years younger. Similarly, someone with an income of greater than $50,000 (in 1999) is 48% more likely to have done the same simple estate plan than someone earning under $15,000 annually. However, education seems to be the best predictor: Someone with a college degree or higher is 57% more likely to have done a simple estate plan than someone who had only attained a high school diploma or less.
Perhaps people learn to plan in college. Regardless of the reasons, people who are better educated and earn more are more likely to do estate planning. What do they know that the others do not?
- If you do not plan, a guardianship or conservatorship (sometimes known as a “living probate”) may have to be established for you in the event you become incapacitated.
- If you do not plan, your medical wishes may not be carried out in the event you have a life threatening illness.
- If you do not plan, your state of last residence, not you, decides who gets your assets.
- If you do not plan, your assets may have to go through probate, which can be time consuming and expensive.
- If you do not plan, your heirs could incur taxes unnecessarily.
- If you do not plan, you have no say in who will raise your children after your death.
- If you do not plan, your state of residence, not you, decides who gets to make medical decisions for you when you are unable to make them for yourself.
- If you do plan, you decide who gets your assets.
- If you do plan, you decide when and how your beneficiaries get your assets.
- If you do plan, you decide who you will nominate as the guardian for minor children.
- If you do plan, you decide who will make medical decisions for you when you cannot make them for yourself.
If you want control over your life, plan. A qualified estate planning attorney can help you take control of your future.
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.