When most people think about their financial future, they tend to focus on paying down bills, retirement accounts or saving for their child’s education. However, planning for their family’s future after they are gone is usually an afterthought.

A 2019 Caring.com survey found that while 76% of Americans believe having a will is important, only 40% have taken action to put an estate plan in place.

Top four reasons Americans don’t have a will

Financial experts say the reluctance of Americans to do end-of-life planning is rooted in fear and procrastination. Caring.com lists the four main reasons that so many are without a plan:

  • 50% said they just haven’t gotten around to it
  • 22% believe they don’t have enough assets to pass along to anyone
  • 6% don’t know how to put a plan in place
  • 6% believe the process is too expensive

The must-haves of estate planning

Drafting a will or creating a trust is not just for the ultra-rich. Everyone can benefit from taking care of their assets before and after their death. Without the proper documents, a probate court will distribute your property as it sees fit – and not necessarily as you would have wished. Every estate plan should include:

  • A will or trust
  • Durable power of attorney
  • Designated beneficiaries
  • Letter of intent
  • Health care power of attorney
  • Guardianship designations for underage children

Taking control of your future

Creating an estate plan is not just about giving away your money or things when you die. Having a will or trust in place allows you to ensure that your loved ones are cared for when you’re gone, and it helps make the probate process much smoother for your family members. Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney about your unique situation is a valuable first step in making these important arrangements.