Planned giving: the state of charitable bequests in the US

“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.”

Charitable giving at USLegalWills.com

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%.

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Why you need a Will – and why your excuses make no sense.

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.

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The Free Last Will and Testament service – not all it seems

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.

Free Last Will and Testament

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

How to write a Will – key steps to successfully writing your Will

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

Writing your Will: we can help with the definitive guide

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

Are there even fewer Americans without Wills?

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.

Executive summary

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.

  1. 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.
  2. Even when we focus on Americans over 35, two thirds don’t have an up-to-date Will.
  3. Only half of Americans over the age of 65 have up-to-date Wills in place.
  4. One in six Americans over the age of 65 have a Will that is out of date.
  5. Wealthy Americans are no more likely to have written their Will.
  6. 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.

Wills

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

A simple Will – From $0 to $1,000. How much should I pay?

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

The six most common errors in a do it yourself Will.

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.

do it yourself Wills Continue reading

Writing a Legal Will: the worst advice we have seen yet

writing a legal Will

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

Cost of a Will – from zero to $2000 and somewhere in between

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?

Cost of a Will

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

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10 ridiculous warnings lawyers give about online Will services

In the last week alone I have seen a number of people asking the question on the internet “Is it okay to prepare my own Will using an online Will service”. I have been shocked at the amount of misinformation that has been posted in reply.

To be clear, I am defending an interactive online Will service like the one at USLegalWills.com, I am not suggesting that you should prepare your Will using a blank form DIY Will kit that you could buy in Staples. The blank form kits are a disaster, but the online Will services are an excellent mid-ground for somebody who doesn’t want the inconvenience and cost of a lawyer, but still needs to have their Will in place.

These are some of the most egregious, incorrect warnings that I have seen in the last week.

1. You must use a lawyer

Written by a lawyer in response to a question on Quora.

Online Will service

 

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The holographic Will

I heard that if I write my own Will out in my own handwriting, I do not need to have it witnessed, is this true?

If a Will is written entirely in your own handwriting, some States do not require that Will to be witnessed. This is known as a holographic Will or holograph Will.holographic will

The trouble is, States vary significantly in their acceptance of a holographic Will. Continue reading