A recent study has unveiled a concerning trend among older Americans, indicating a decline in the creation of wills and estate planning documents. The research, conducted by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, suggests that the percentage of households headed by individuals over the age of 70 with wills or trusts in place for asset distribution after their passing has steadily decreased since the mid-2000s. Over the course of a decade from 2008 to 2018, this percentage dropped from 70% to 63%. This trend has only continued since then.
This downward trajectory can be attributed, in part, to the changing demographic landscape of older Americans. With a growing number of seniors identifying as Black or Hispanic, these groups are statistically less inclined than non-Hispanic whites to engage in estate planning processes, such as drafting wills and strategizing to pass on an inheritance to their loved ones.
The research led by Gal Wettstein, a senior research economist at Boston College, covers the dramatic underrepresentation of non-Hispanic Blacks and Hispanics in the important legal area of estate planning. Although this particular study concluded in 2018, surveys taken since then indicate that the alarming decline in estate planning has continued into the present day.
The period between 2020 and 2023 has seen a reduced ratio of Americans aged over 55 who possess wills, as revealed in the 2023 Wills and Estate Planning study by Caring.com.
This is deeply concerning news.
The study, based on a survey of 2,483 Americans conducted by YouGov, indicates a decrease from 48% to 46% in the number of older Americans with wills during this timeframe. Our nation’s shift in demographics, with a higher proportion of Black and Hispanic seniors, plays a significant role in this trend and highlights the need for broader awareness and support for estate planning in these communities.
The reluctance to create wills can often be attributed to procrastination and the inherent complexity of the processor believing they do not really have anything to leave. For many, contemplating one's mortality can be uncomfortable, leading them to delay this important task. Others avoid drafting a will due to the perception that the lawyer required to complete the process would cost too much money, when in fact drafting a will is generally a very affordable and economical investment.
For one reason or another, many individuals delay and delay - until it’s too late.
What are the downsides of dying without a will?
If you die without a will, it can have devastating impacts on your family. Fighting between loved ones and court interventions have become increasingly common in these scenarios. These situations can be easily prevented if you take a few proactive steps and ensure that you have the right documents in place.
When is the best time to draft a will?
Parenthood frequently serves as a catalyst for drafting wills, as it prompts individuals to consider the welfare of their children and the distribution of their assets upon their passing. New children or grandchildren, new marriages, college enrollments, and real estate purchases are all additional life events that serve as great opportunities to think ahead and revisit your goals and wishes for your legacy, assets, and loved ones. However, any time is the perfect time for estate planning. No matter how much or little you have, estate planning is a loving and practical thing to do. Commit to this today, and create a better tomorrow for yourself and your loved ones.