|Image by M. Gustafson Gervasi, 2015|
A recent reported stated that while 69 percent of Americans have given serious consideration to setting up a will, only 34 percent actually have a valid will. And of those that know it is important, but have not acted, 95 percent say it is because they lack the financial know-how, and not that that topic of death is too taboo.
Even as an estate planner the 34 percent shocked me, I would have guessed about 48 to 49 percent of Americans have not created a will. But I would disagree with the wording in the report that only 34 percent of Americans have a will. Here is why: "Guess what, those of you with your hands up -- you do have a will. One the State Legislature wrote for you. If you won't sit down and write one, they did one for you as a back-up. Some folks may agree with their assumptions, otherwise will not." And then I show them a flow-chart of Wisconsin's intestacy statute. The law that says where your probate assets will go if you have not drawn up a will (or other means of distribution: trust, TOD Deed, joint ownership, etc.). So one does not really die with a will, but rather they die without having stated his or her wishes. They die with a default will. It might be fine, it might be horrific. Take control, and put your wishes in a legally binding format.