Perhaps not surprisingly, more than half of Americans do not have a will. Martindale-Hubbell® had a research study conducted in 2007 and found that for the last three years, 55% of all adult Americans do not have a will. Only one in three African American adults (32 percent) and one in four Hispanic American adults (26 percent) have wills, compared to more than half (52 percent) of white American adults. A new survey by FindLaw.com found the same data: fifty-five percent of American adults have not written a will. As one might expect, the situation is particularly prevalent among younger people. Only one in six people between the ages of 18 and 34 have a will. We think we are immortal at that age. However, the data does not support that view.
According to a 2007 report by the National Safety Council (NSC), accidental deaths in the United States are rising at an alarming rate, more than 20 percent over a 10-year period, reaching 113,000 deaths in 2005, according to the latest data available. The National Safety Council warns that at the current rate, the nation’s all-time high of 116,385 accidental deaths, set in 1969, could be surpassed in the next few years.
For people between 1 and 41 years of age, accidents are the leading cause of death in the nation. While accidents continue to be the 5th leading cause of death overall, exceeded only by heart disease, cancer, stroke and chronic lower respiratory diseases, accidental deaths are increasing at a greater rate than that of any of the top four causes of death.
“Accidental death in America is a silent epidemic. With one person dying from an accident every five minutes, unintentional injury is one of the most serious public health issues facing the country,” said NSC President and CEO Alan McMillan. “Trauma from accidents follows only heart disease and cancer in national medical expenditures. For people between the ages of 18 and 64 with private health insurance, more is spent on medical care for trauma and poisoning than for any other health condition. The economic and social impact is substantial for families, communities, employers and the health care system.”
Motor vehicle crashes continue to be the leading cause of injury-related death in the country. Driver behaviors including speeding, distractions and impairment, as well as not wearing seatbelts, contribute significantly to motor vehicle injuries and fatalities. And this was before the “epidemic” of cell phone related automobile accidents, due to the inattention of phone calls and texting.
Poisoning – particularly from overdoses of over-the-counter, prescription and illicit drugs – is now the fastest-rising cause of accidental death with a 5 percent increase last year alone. While the largest numerical increase in overdoses is among white men – up nearly 6,000 in 10 years – poisoning death rates are increasing the most among white women – up more than 300 percent over 10 years.
Conclusion: none of us is immortal or invulnerable. Do you want the state to determine what is done with your assets, your possessions or your children? You will sleep better with a will.