“A note on Privacy: the protection and security of the documents created on our web site are of critical importance. In particular, we cannot access any information contained in a specific Will, nor can we read a person’s Will. However, we are able to access aggregated data on planned giving from an encrypted database folder that summarizes the number of times particular choices have been made within our service. We cannot connect this information to individual accounts. It is this data that has been mined to provide the information in this post”
Background to our study
At USlegalWills.com, we help thousands of Americans create their Last Will and Testament. A Will contains a lot of important information, such as who will be the guardians of your children and who will receive your house after you pass on, and it can also serve as a great way to give back to the community upon your death. Leaving money or assets to a charity is called “planned giving,” which USlegalWills.com offers for all its Wills. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, in 2015, individual giving, which makes up the vast majority of contributions received by non-profit organizations, “amounted to $258.51 billion in 2014, an increase of 7.1 percent in current dollars from 2013.” Ever since the Great Recession in 2008, “individual giving has been increasing in both current and inflation-adjusted dollars for the last couple years, although it has not recovered to pre-recession levels.”
Actual word cloud from bequests made at USLegalWills.com
With this charitable giving trend on the rise, we were interested in the level of “planned giving” going on in the United States. According to Russell James, the number of people aged 55+ with a charitable estate beneficiary hovers between 5% an 6%.
It seems that the subject of making a Will is something that most people simply want to avoid as much as possible. Every survey ever done about the topic shows that the majority of adult Americans have not made a Will. We just avoid the subject and dig our heads in the sand. But you need a Will. No matter what your circumstance, you need a Will.
No doubt there are many reasons for the excuses. None of us wants to think about our own mortality. Some people are even superstitious enough to think that making a Will might hasten our own demise. However, even if you do not have a penny to your name, you should make a Will.
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about making a Will. Here we talk about the confusion that people have about the reality of why you need a Will.
The lifestyles of the rich and famous are endlessly fascinating. Sometimes they become even more fascinating when they are no longer with us. You would think that the privileged among us would have it all sorted out when it comes to estate planning and wills. However, as you will see from these notorious cases, all too often they make huge errors. Here are some stories of the most complicated and prolonged disputes over wills and estates.
Anna Nicole Smith
The ill-fated and rather tragic life of Anna Nicole Smith involves not just one, but two estate disputes. Anna Nicole married J. Howard Marshall in 1994 when he was 89 years old. Anna Nicole, a former Playboy Playmate was just 26 at the time of their marriage. Some saw the 62-year age gap between the couple as an excuse to label the bride a gold digger – you can of course draw your own conclusions! Continue reading
One of the most important questions that you must ask yourself when you are making a Last Will and Testament is how to choose a guardian for your children. None of us ever want to think that we won’t be around to care for our children until they are adults. However, sometimes that becomes a reality.
It is not very likely to happen, but you do need to make sure that there is a provision for someone to look after your children in the event of your death. You can do that by making a Will and giving some detailed thought about how to choose a guardian for your children.
A Will allows parents to name the person or people who you would like to appoint as guardian for your children. This is one of the most important provisions in a Last Will and Testament for all those of us who have minor children.
If you do not choose a guardian in your Will, one will be appointed for you by the court. The decision of who looks after your children will be taken out of your hands. To avoid this, it is very important to choose a guardian in your Last Will and Testament.
What are the things that you must think about when you choose a guardian? Here are some questions that you should think about. Continue reading
How much should you be paying for a Will? Why should you pay anything when just a few clicks away, you can find a free Last Will and Testament service? How can the exact same document cost $800 from an attorney, and absolutely nothing from a website? how do you choose how much to pay for your Will?
All interesting questions which we will answer in this article.
What is a Will?
To understand the variation in the cost of a Will, you have to understand what makes a document a Last Will and Testament.
A Will declares itself to be your Will. It typically appoints an Executor who is responsible for following the instructions laid out in the document. It then goes on to describe how you would like to distribute your things after you are gone.
To make this a legal document you must print it on a piece of paper, date it, and sign it in the presence of two witnesses, who both in turn sign the document. Continue reading
Should You Make Provision for Your Pets in a Will?
We have all seen the stories of eccentric millionaires who leave their fortune to their pets in a Will. Their relatives are cut out of the Will, but Fido receives a very generous legacy. But it’s not as easy as you may think to leave something to your pets in a Will.
One of the most famous of these cases is that of billionaire Leona Helmsley’s dog. He was the lucky pooch who inherited $12 million from her estate. The Maltese dog, perhaps appropriately named “Trouble” was one of the major benefactors of her estate. Some of the family members weren’t quite so fortunate. Two grandchildren received nothing, and Leona evicted her son’s widow after his death. Trouble did not get quite as much money as he bargained for as a judge later reduced the amount to $2 million. The grandchildren who Leona excluded were awarded $6 million and the balance went to charity.
Leona Helmsley earned the title of “Queen of Mean” during her lifetime. She served 18 months in prison for tax evasion. Unfortunately, her gift to her dog made Trouble the most hated dog in the country. He is said to have received numerous death and kidnapping threats, so had to have a permanent security guard with him. He lived in style, but only spent about $190,000 a year. Most of that was on his security detail. Although we are sure there was plenty left over for grooming and food. Continue reading
Do you want to know how to write a Will? Even though writing a Will is one of the most important things that everyone ought to do, most of us are very good at avoiding the issue. Most people put off the task of writing a Will, even though it is one of the most important things that we can do for our family.
The one thing that you should not be apprehensive about is that you do not know how to write a Will. There are plenty of resources out there to help you.
None of us really wants to think about our own demise, so putting off writing a Will seems like the easier option. Unfortunately, the reality is that if we don’t deal with the task of writing a Will we leave our loved ones with huge potential difficulties.
Most people don’t make a Will – but you should not use this as an excuse! Writing a Will ought to be a very painless process and it can be quite affordable. Do not worry that you do not know how to write a Will. Continue reading
As with any task that comes to mind on odd occasions in your life, writing your Will can seem overwhelming. So much so, that most people don’t do it. However, if you are coming to this page, something that probably happened in your life to make you realize that writing a Will is a vitally important task.
Sadly most people who feel an immediate need to prepare their Will just do a Google search for a local estate planning attorney. They make an appointment, pay several hundreds or thousands of dollars and live with the peace of mind that the task is finally off their To Do list. As long as they don’t need to update it.
However, with a little research, you will quickly understand that writing your Will needn’t be difficult, inconvenient or expensive
Here are ten quick steps to writing your Will; Continue reading
What are blended families?
Blended families is a term that includes families for whom one or both partners have children from a previous marriage. In other words, your spouse may not be the biological parent of your children. Blended families have become increasingly common, especially as the divorce rate in many countries including the United States hovers around fifty percent. There are several nuances that emerge when you write a Will for a blended family situation.
Blended families have to balance bequests between children from previous marriages and the current marriage.
Put simply, if you leave everything to your spouse in your Will, and they are not the biological parent of your children, there is every chance that their life would move on. There is then a distinct possibility that your children may not even be a factor in their estate plan.
Blended Families illustrated
Let us take the following scenario:
A number of surveys over the last few years have reported that anywhere from 55 percent to 64 percent of Americans have not written their Wills. However, one under-reported statistic is the number of people who have their Will in place, but made it so long ago, that it no longer reflects their current circumstance. At USLegalWills.com we wanted to explore the current state of Will writing in the US, and delve deeper into the issue of outdated Wills.
The USLegalWills.com survey was conducted within the United States by Google Consumer Surveys, June 2016, among 2,012 adults aged 18 and older, and has a root square mean error of 1.4%.
Results are weighted by age, gender, and region. For full information on Google Consumer Surveys’ methodology and validity, visit here.
- Across all age groups 28.4 percent of Americans had up-to-date Wills. 8.6% had a Will but it was out-of-date. 63% had no Will at all. This means that 71.6 percent of Americans do not have an up-to-date Will.
- Even when we focus on Americans over 35, two thirds don’t have an up-to-date Will.
- Only half of Americans over the age of 65 have up-to-date Wills in place.
- One in six Americans over the age of 65 have a Will that is out of date.
- Wealthy Americans are no more likely to have written their Will.
- Wealthy Americans are more likely to have an out-of-date Will.
Number of Americans without Wills
Our aggregated numbers show that 71.6 percent of Americans do not have an up-to-date Will. We rarely see the number of out-of-date Wills reported, but it makes a significant difference to the story and clearly demonstrates that there are significant improvements needed in the way that Will writing is presented to Americans.
We know that everybody needs a Will, and consistently over the years we’ve heard that around two thirds of Americans don’t have their Wills in place, but now knowing that nearly ten percent have an out-of-date Will adds to this concern. Continue reading
Thinking about Making a Will, but not managed to get started? don’t worry, you are not alone. Unfortunately, many people procrastinate the estate planning process for a variety of reasons. People might think that estate planning is complicated, time-consuming, or will cost them hundreds of dollars in fees.
According to a survey by legal insurance firm LawPRO, 56% of Canadian adults do not have a Will, more than half of them because they either don’t know how to get started or think they can’t afford to. The numbers are almost identical south of the border: the American Bar Association cites 55% of American adults as not having a Will or estate plan. Continue reading
We get this question almost every day; “I would like a will for my husband and I. This is only letting me do one will. How do I get a joint Will that will allow us to give what we have to each other?
Couples have several options when writing a Will together. Among them are:
- A Joint Will;
- Mutual Wills;
- A Reciprocal Will or Mirror Will.
Defining a Joint Will and Mutual Wills
A Joint Will is a single document that allows for a couple to combine their Last Will and Testament. Normally, one partner inherits the entire estate when the other dies. When the second partner dies, the estate will be handled as agreed to by both partners. Continue reading
The issue of Digital assets has come up again in the mainstream press. It was covered on the CBC in Canada and then was picked up by media outlets around the World. The Washington post ran with the headline
Her dying husband left her the house and the car, but he forgot the Apple password
The Daily Mail in the UK also ran the story with the headline “Widow who wanted her dead husband’s Apple ID so she could play games on their iPad is refused and told to get a COURT order instead”. The Sydney Morning Herald also alerted its readers. Google news is claiming 19,000 separate news articles about Peggy Bush, the 72 year old Canadian widow who simply wanted to play some games on the family iPad. The card game stopped working so she wanted to update it. To do this, she needed her late husband’s Apple ID password.
The best option that Apple gave her was to create a new Apple ID, but this would mean re-purchasing all of the games that had already been purchased by her husband. There was no way of transferring the games from one Apple ID account to another.
Apple suggested that they would only be able to release the User ID and password of the account with a court order. The general reaction was that this was a little unsympathetic to the situation; all of Peggy’s late husband’s assets had been successfully transferred, and nobody, including banks and insurance companies, had required a court order to do this. Continue reading
You are already doing better than the vast majority of adults in the US. You know that you need a Will, and you are starting to do something about it. You have started researching the approaches to preparing a simple Will, and now you are thoroughly confused. How can it be that the same simple Will can cost absolutely nothing on some websites, and can cost a thousand dollars with an estate planning attorney. What exactly will you be getting in each case? and how much should you really be paying to write a simple Last Will and Testament?
What is a Will?
The most basic definition is that a Last Will and Testament is a legal declaration by which a person, the testator, names one or more persons to manage his or her estate and provides for the distribution of his or her property at death.
There are three key elements to a simple Will. Continue reading
Every once in a while a news article appears that describes how a person made a mistake when preparing a “do it yourself Will”. The legal profession often latch onto these articles as a warning for anybody thinking of preparing their own do it yourself Will, suggesting that if the person in the article made a mistake, it follows that you should probably seek legal advice.
Clearly people make mistakes. Even lawyers make mistakes when preparing Wills, like this one who had a couple accidentally sign each other’s Wills. However, it would be disingenuous to use this example as a cautionary tale, and suggest that you should avoid using a lawyer because they always get things wrong.
So I have gathered up some recent news articles, and looked at some of our own support questions and listed the six most common mistakes people make when preparing a do it yourself Will.
Most people have not got around to writing a Will. According to a recent survey 64% of adults in the US do not have a Last Will and Testament. The more significant concern though is that in the younger age groups (people under 35) the percentage is much higher.
90% of Americans aged 18-34 do not have a Will
80% of Americans aged 35-44 do not have a Will
83% of single Americans with children do not have a Will
The primary reason for this is that young single people simply don’t feel that they need a Will, and of those that do, writing a Will is certainly not an urgent task. It ends up being something that they simply haven’t “gotten around to”.
Here are some considerations for young single people who fall into one of these two camps; the deniers and the procrastinators. Continue reading
Much of our customer support effort is spent on correcting misunderstandings that have usually arisen from bad information that has been posted on the Internet. As with anything that you do once or twice in your lifetime, the terms will be unfamiliar, and there will be a lot to learn. But the task is made that much more difficult by woefully incorrect information that proliferates on different “advice blogs”. The example at the top of the page is from a reasonably well respected resource at Nerdwallet (we couldn’t help but post a comment under their article, so they may have fixed it if you click through). But this staff writer, who doesn’t appear to have any legal training has written; Continue reading
Yeah right, $35 for a Last Will and Testament. There’s no way it can be legal
One of the ongoing challenges we face is explaining to people how our Wills at $34.95, can work in the same way as a Will written for $800. But also differentiate our service from a free download site, where the cost of a Will may be nothing or at most $5. So what exactly is the difference between a $5 Will, at $35 Will at USLegalWills.com and an $800 Will drawn up by an estate planning attorney?
When the cost of a Will is too little
Why would I pay $35 for a Will from you guys when I can get download one for free at freelegalforms.com
Everybody knows that they need to write a Will, but the stats show that only about a third of adults in the US have managed to get it done. Some say it’s the cost that puts people off, others say that it’s finding the time to make an appointment. In our experience of fielding calls through our customer service center, the real issue is that most people have no idea where to start. A very common call we receive is “I know I need to write a Will, what do I do?”. Here we have ten steps to go through to prepare your Will.
1. Choose your approach
You can take one of three approached to write a Will. The cheapest is to use a blank sheet of paper, or a blank form kit, and fill in the blanks explaining what you want to happen to your things after you have died. Continue reading
I actually think it’s a good idea to have a living will. I’d encourage everybody to get one. I have one; Michelle has one. And we hope we don’t have to use it for a long time, but I think it’s something that is sensible. – Barack Obama, 2009
One of the most confusing services that we offer at USLegalWills.com should be the simplest. But in the US there are countless terms being used for very similar things, and we will try to decipher these terms in this article on the Living Will. Terminology does change though, so it is possible that this article can become out of date. Please fee free to add corrections or updates in the comments below.
The Living Will
A living will is a written, legal document that spells out medical treatments you would and would not want to be used to keep you alive, as well as other decisions such as pain management or organ donation.
A Living Will is much more than Continue reading