One reason Patricia L. Brown & Associates handles probate, wills, trusts and powers of attorney is so many of our family law and divorce clients do not have these documents. Perhaps the term "estate planning" misleads people who confuse "estates" with mansions. If you own virtually anything of value (automobile, furniture, family photographs and momentos, a bank account, a TV, etc) or have minor children, you need a will and powers of attorney. Otherwise, some anonymous judge will decide who receives the items you value, including perhaps your despised brother-in-law. And if you are injured or ill and cannot make your own health care decisions, who do you want making those decisions? That brother-in-law?
It may sound unusual (for an article about wills, etc) but this is a website you should visit: "GetYourS**tTogether.Org". It was started by a young woman, Chanel Reynolds, who's husband was killed by a car while bicycling. While trying to deal with the loss, she discovered how chaotic and disorganized their life actually was, although it didn't seem so. For example, they had taken the time to draft wills but sadly never signed and executed them. She didn't even know if her husband had life insurance.
If you own anything, you should have a living will (also known as directive to physicians or medical power of attorney). An Associated Press LifeGoesStrong.com poll found that 64 percent of baby boomers - those born between 1946 and 1964 - say they don't have a health care proxy or living will. A living will or medical directive is not a will that distributes your property when you die. Instead, it is a document that explains what medical care you wish to receive if you are incapacitated. The number of American adults with living wills increased between 2004 and 2007, rising from 31 percent in 2004 to 41 percent in 2007, according to LexisNexis. Meanwhile, 38 percent of adults (undoubtedly most of the same people in the previous 41%) have a healthcare power of attorney, which gives a designated friend or family member the power to make your healthcare decisions if you become incapacitated, according to your specific instructions. We believe that people in virtually every age group should have a living will. Clearly, the elderly are at greater risk than the young, but are the young OK to wait? There are a number of disturbing trends which suggest the answer is a resounding NO. Many Texans think unless they are seniors, they do not need a living will. The data suggests otherwise. Within a period of 13 years, from 1995 to 2008, the number of people within the age group of 15 to 44 who were hospitalized for strokes rose by 37 percent, said researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to a related study, scientists have identified a significantly increasing trend in ischemic stroke hospitalizations among adolescents and young adults: one in three ischemic stroke patients was between 15 to 34 years old. According to the findings of the study, published in the Annals of Neurology, the increased risk of strokes was greater in men than in women in all age groups. Over the time period studied, it rose 50 percent for men aged 35 to 44, 29% for women. For those 15 to 34, it was a 23 percent increase. The most likely culprits: rising rates of obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes -- the major risk factors for stroke -- among younger people. So why would strokes be increasing in younger people, while decreasing in older people? Kissela says it's probably because stroke prevention efforts aimed at controlling high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity have largely been aimed at older people. And they've been successful, he says. Because stroke is thought of as an older person's disease, younger people fell through the cracks, Kissela says. "If we don't reverse this trend, there will be many years of productive life lost. Not just years of work lost; it can be as simple as a young mother no longer being able to hold her baby." A small investment in time and money up front on a living will and powers of attorney can provide you and your loved ones with the peace of mind you deserve. At any age.
Whenever I give I talk, I ask for a show of hands regarding who has a will. It is usually much less than half. When I ask how many have updated their will in the last 3 years, I get 1 or 2 hands, or none. Most of us postpone doing a will because it reminds us of the inevitable. Yet it is probably the most important legal document you will ever be a party to. If you own anything or have children and die unexpectedly (few of us expect to die unexpectedly!), a stranger, a judge with no personal knowledge of you, will oversee the disposition of your assets and your children.
Most people recognize the need for a will but put it off. First, it reminds us of our own mortality, which we'd rather not think about. Secondly, unless one is elderly or ill, we do not think death is imminent. In a previous blog, I talked about accidental death and how, very sadly, accidental deaths are growing in America, to "epidemic" proportions, according to some experts.
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.