By S. Craig Daniell
As a result of countless movie and television plots, most people know that a will is a legal document that specifies what should be done with a person’s assets and belongings after they die. A will also specifies an executor, who carries out the wishes of the deceased. Surprisingly, despite widespread knowledge as to what a will is, many Americans do not have one. According to a 2015 Harris Poll estate-planning survey, 64% of Americans do not have a will. This Forbes article cites the reasons for this troubling statistic:
While it is advisable for all adults to have a will in place, it is especially important for seniors to outline the disposition of their assets upon their death. For those who have assets in the $5 million range, estate taxes can be a concern.
In the absence of either a will or a trust, state law dictates the disposition of a deceased person’s assets by means of a probate court, which can be a lengthy and expensive process.