Personal finance

67% of Americans have no estate plan, survey finds. Here’s how to get started on one

Justin Paget | Digitalvision | Getty Images

The Covid-19 pandemic has increased Americans’ awareness of the need to have a will, living trust or other similar end-of-life document prepared.

Yet only about 33% of Americans have put these plans in place, according to a new survey from senior living referral service Caring.com. That means that 67% are leaving what happens to them and their assets in case of disability or death up to others, including the state.

The biggest reason why: They just haven’t gotten around to it, according to 40% of survey respondents. Meanwhile, 33%  said they don’t have enough assets to pass on to their loved ones, 13% said the estate-planning process is too costly and 12% said they do not know how to get a will.

Notably, people who have had a serious case of Covid-19 are 66% more likely to engage in estate planning compared to those who have not, according to Caring.com.

Moreover, 41% of those ages 18 to 34 see greater need for a will or other estate-planning documents following the onset of the pandemic.

Still, there’s room for improvement, said Jim Rosenthal, CEO of Caring.com, noting only 48% of people who had a severe case of Covid have an estate plan in place.

“Even with the big scare of potential impending death, people still don’t run out and take care of what’s not that challenging to take care of,” Rosenthal said.

Importantly, you do not need to have a lot of assets in order to decide where you want the assets you do have to go when you die, or to stipulate your preferences for your end-of-life or other care should you become incapacitated.

The first step is to become as informed as possible and consider consulting a financial advisor, Rosenthal said. For those with fewer assets, online resources may help them plan. However, in order to make sure any do-it-yourself documents count as official, you may want to get them notarized.

Caring.com’s online survey was conducted Dec. 21-23 and included 2,644 adults ages 18 and over.

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