The Caring.com 2021 Wills and Estate Planning Study documented a trend familiar to Trust & Estate attorneys: Younger adults are embracing the wisdom of making a will and engaging in estate planning amid fears and uncertainty created by COVID-19.
The study revealed that younger adults are 63 percent more likely to have a will than they were before the pandemic. “The younger generation was also the most likely to cite COVID-19 as the reason they started taking estate planning seriously,” Caring.com said in its story on the report.
For the first time, 18- to 34-year-olds are more likely to have a will than those 35 to 54, the study found, while documenting that older adults have not been similarly inspired to complete estate planning documents that can safeguard assets and prevent unintended, potentially costly consequences.
Thirty-five percent of the 2,500 surveyed said the pandemic has made them realize the importance of having a will—but the overall percentage of those who actually have wills hasn’t changed since last year.
A Gallup poll released in June found 46 percent of Americans “have a will that describes how they would like their money and estate to be handled after their death.” That percentage has been static since 1990, according to Gallup.
“The Caring.com study reveals what we’ve been experiencing at Cramer & Anderson,” said Partner Josh Weinshank, whose practice focuses on Trust and Estate Planning, Elder Law, and Trust and Probate administration.
“To see younger people engaging in estate planning is heartening, but it’s also surprising and troubling that, even amid COVID, many middle age and older Americans don’t seem to understand how much may be at stake,” Attorney Weinshank said.
If you die without a will (intestate) in Connecticut, the probate court distributes assets according to state law, which ensures debts, funeral expenses, and taxes are paid first. In the case of someone who had a spouse and children with that spouse, for example, the spouse receives the first $100,000 and half of any further assets, while the children would receive the other half of those additional assets.
“It’s not inconceivable in such a situation that the person didn’t expect to die, and might have mentioned preferences such as distribution of assets to parents or siblings,” Attorney Weinshank said. “However, without those wishes having been documented in a will, there simply is no legal option except for the division of assets as specified by state law.”
In a Wall Street Journal story on the estate planning trends amid COVID, Judith Flynn, a Quincy, Mass., attorney and board member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, offered an example in which the lack of a will would be a “catastrophe.”
“For instance, if beneficiaries with special needs inherit funds outright rather than in a supplemental needs trust, that inheritance can cause them to lose government benefits that may be essential to their quality of life,” she said, according to the story.
“The bottom line is that everyone’s situation is different and there are many different estate planning vehicles and documents to address the broad range of situations and goals,” Attorney Weinshank said. “Working with an experienced Trust & Estate attorney ensures that your wishes, the estate and its assets, and all of the needs of family members are handled in an optimal way.”
The cost of wills and other estate planning documents depends on the complexity of the situation, the type and structure of assets, and filing requirements in Connecticut. The first step is to contact an attorney to describe your situation and receive an initial assessment of the process and costs involved in creating a will and engaging in the proper type and intensity of estate planning.
Connect With the Cramer & Anderson Trusts & Estates Team
Partner Arthur C. Weinshank is Senior Partner of the Estate, Trust, Elder Law and Probate Administration Department at Cramer & Anderson and may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at (860) 355-2631.
Partner Josh Weinshank, Resident Partner of Cramer & Anderson’s office in Ridgefield and the Fairfield County Trust and Estate Planning and Administration Group Leader for the firm, may be reached by email at email@example.com, or by phone at (203) 403-4005.
Associate Matthew J. Sponheimer works in the Ridgefield office, focusing on estate planning, wills and trusts, Medicaid planning, and Elder Law issues. He may be reached by email at MSponheimer@crameranderson.com, and by phone at (203) 403-4005.
About Cramer & Anderson
Cramer & Anderson has offices in New Milford, Washington Depot, Kent, Litchfield, Danbury, and Ridgefield. Visitors are required to wear masks.
Proper sanitation and social distancing measures remain strictly observed in our offices, and we also offer clients great flexibility via phone, email, Zoom and other teleconferencing platforms.
For more information, see the firm’s website or call the flagship office in New Milford at (860) 355-2631.