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At first glance, this number would appear to be very low with studies indicating that approximately 55 percent of American adults do not have a will or other estate plan in place.  However, I would argue that in fact most people do their own estate planning all the time, they simply don’t realize that they are doing it.

Those individuals who have neglected to establish any estate planning documents are opting into their state provided Intestate Succession Statute which is the body of law that determines who is entitled to the property from the estate under the rules of  inheritance.  This is commonly what I refer to as the “No plan, plan.”  The problem with this plan is that the state dictates all of the terms including who gets what and the process by which the estate is administered, often resulting in unintended and unwanted consequences and unnecessary expense and delay.

Aside from the inaction that is very common, there are many instances in which people proactively are making estate planning decisions without even realizing they are doing it.  Generally any time an individual chooses to take title to an asset or fills out a beneficiary designation form, they are effectively making estate planning decisions.  For example, taking title to their home as individuals, joint tenants, or tenants in common, etc. will dictate how that piece of property will be handled when they pass away.  Also, the way in which they take title to an account such as an investment account or bank account has the same type of effect from an estate planning perspective.  Finally, designating a beneficiary on a life insurance policy, retirement account, annuity contract, or other financial account amounts to estate planning.

These are very important decisions that are being made by individuals on a regular basis yet very few of the individuals understand the importance or consequence of these decisions.  Unfortunately, we often learn about these consequences when it is too late and we are called upon to fix the problems that are caused by these uninformed decisions.  If these individuals simply had access to information to make informed choices, the delay, expense, and stress of fixing these mistakes could be avoided.  Therefore, it is imperative that people realize that whether they take the time to sit down with an experienced estate planning attorney to get help and advice or not, the decisions they make regularly will ultimately have an impact on what happens to themselves, their assets, and their loved ones.

One Response to “How Often do People do Estate Planning?”

  1. Recently came across your blog, I really appreciate it.

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