A new national survey commissioned on behalf of EZLaw™, an online legal document creation service from LexisNexis®, finds the majority of Americans (60 percent) believe that all adults should have a will or estate planning documents in place, yet only 44 percent report that they currently have any such documents. In stark contrast, more than one third (36 percent) of Americans with minor children do not believe that wills or estate plans are among the most important documents to have on hand. Rather, adults with minors in the household rank birth certificates (76 percent) and titles/deeds for property and vehicles (70 percent) as the most important. In addition, although the majority of parents with minors in the household (75 percent) understand that a court will decide who the children’s legal guardian becomes if there is no will at the time of both parents’ death, only 39 percent have any estate planning documents in place.
"The 2011 EZLaw Wills & Estate Planning survey shows parents may not be taking the necessary steps to ensure their wishes for the care of their children and estate are followed in the event that both parents were to pass, for example due to an accident," said David Palmieri, vice president and managing director of Marketing and Consumer Solutions at LexisNexis. "Additional research conducted by EZLaw earlier this year indicates that many parents consider wills to be more appropriate for those with significant wealth and as a result, they risk leaving the fate of their children in the hands of the courts instead of being directed by an enforceable legal document."
Reasons given for not making a will or estate planning a priority vary widely. According to the survey, 37 percent of Americans cite a current focus on "essentials," such as paying bills and buying groceries, as the top reason they don’t have any estate planning documents. Other reasons cited by survey respondents include:
• Not necessary (18 percent)
• Too complicated to deal with right now (16 percent)
• Too expensive (14 percent)
• Belief that their spouse and/or children will automatically receive any assets that they have (13 percent)
• Too time consuming (6 percent).
Other findings indicate that age and gender play a role in whether a person has a will or estate planning documents. For example, the majority of Americans report that they are most concerned about preserving their health (70 percent) and having enough money to retire (50 percent) as opposed to protecting their financial assets (43 percent), while women are more likely to be concerned about maintaining their weight (47 percent) than protecting their financial assets (44 percent).
Additionally, Americans 18-34 years old are more likely to report that they are most concerned about preserving their health (64 percent), having enough money to retire (52 percent) and maintaining their weight (51 percent) rather than protecting their financial assets (44 percent). Interestingly, one in five Americans 18-34 years old (22 percent) believe it is becoming less important to have wills because people are living longer, healthier lives.
"One finding from the EZLaw survey indicates that three-quarters of consumers would be more likely to create or update their will if there was an easy, valid way to do so online," continued Palmieri. "EZLaw.com can deliver that solution."
Developed by LexisNexis, the EZLaw online service enables users to create a living will, last will and testament, and/or power of attorney and have those documents reviewed by a qualified lawyer for a fixed cost per document. EZLaw is the first online legal document creation service of its kind that pairs people with a qualified attorney who will review their documents and consult with them by phone to finalize them. Currently available to Pennsylvania residents, EZLaw will be introduced in more states soon.
About the Survey
The 2011 EZLaw™ Wills & Estate Planning survey (EZLaw.com) was conducted online by TNS on May 19-22 among 1,000 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. The margin of error for the total sample is ±3.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. This means that if we were to replicate the study, we would expect to get the same results (within 3.1 percentage points) 95 times out of 100.
LexisNexis® (lexisnexis.com) is a leading global provider of content-enabled workflow solutions designed specifically for professionals in the legal, risk management, corporate, government, law enforcement, accounting, and academic markets. LexisNexis originally pioneered online information with its Lexis® and Nexis® services. A member of Reed Elsevier [NYSE: ENL; NYSE: RUK] (reedelsevier.com), LexisNexis serves customers in more than 100 countries with 15,000 employees worldwide.