INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A new study shows 75% of Americans think it's important to have a will while only 40% actually have one.
The people who are least likely to have a will are Millennials, but they are not alone. There are many reasons people don’t create a will. Maybe they don’t think they have enough money or they don’t have children or anything of value. Regardless, if you want to minimize stress for your family and friends, consider creating a will.
"I've had a will for a long time, but I needed to update it for both of our girls. I may not have thought about it had it not been for the fact that last July I got into an accident. By the grace of God, I'm standing here, not paralyzed and not dead," said Linda Bour.
Your home, your money--all your investments--can be in jeopardy if you pass away without a will. Experts say you should write a will, update it and have a "living will."
"A living will is very important, so you can name financial powers of attorney and health care powers of attorney. That way people can act in your best interest should something happen to you and you're incapacitated," said Casey Marx, president of Crown Haven Wealth Advisors.
Marx says 80% of their clients don't have a will. He's not a lawyer so he doesn't write the will, but he does figure out clients' investments. In Bour's case, he made some positive discoveries that can benefit her and her family right now.
"It was unexpected and I don't fully understand the financial aspects of it, but just the way that everything fell into place, we were able to make money that first year, after Casey looked at our investments," said Bour.
The first step in writing a will is figuring out what assets you have. At the same time, you might find some positive information while you're in the process.
"We were locking in a bonus and a positive market value adjustment which netted her about a guaranteed 18% for the year," said Marx.
That was big money for Bour and her family. Not having a proper will affects anyone, including celebrities like Prince, Heath Ledger and Aretha Franklin.
"Aretha Franklin wrote down her will on a napkin that was actually found in a couch cushion in her house, so you want to make it legal. You want to go through the proper channels, you want to speak to lawyers and get it documented," said Marx.
Another common mistake: many people who have a will fail to update it. It's a mistake actor Heath Ledger made after he wrote a will that included his sister and mother.
"But then Ledger married someone and he had a child, and he didn't update any of his documents to reflect that. So anytime you have a marriage, a birth, a divorce, a death--these are things you want to consider and you want to update the people in your will and your beneficiaries," said Marx.
You can also protect what you own, regardless of the will. That way there is less of a problem if things are unclear.
"There are specific accounts that you can use to do that," said Marx. "And that's one of the things that we offer at our firm is we set up our clients in a position that the majority of their assets are protected against creditors and probate."