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Financial Literacy - Planning for your heirs
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The will paradox
Three-quarters of Americans say everyone should have a will, but more than half don't have one.
Planning for your heirs

Americans' words and deeds about wills at odds

Actions don't reflect values when it comes to planning for your heirs, Bankrate's latest poll reveals.

Even though three-quarters of our poll respondents (76 percent) believe that everyone should have a will, a whopping 57 percent of Americans don't have one themselves.

Parents of kids younger than 18 make an even poorer showing: 67 percent don't have a will, despite the fact that 88 percent of parents believe wills are an important way to appoint guardians.

Most attorneys don't have a will ... Many successful people plan every thing else in their lives except their estate plan.

Bankrate commissioned GfK Roper to conduct a random survey of America's attitudes and behavior as part of this month's estate planning focus in our yearlong Financial Literacy series. Over a thousand people were asked if they had a will; based on their responses, we polled them more in depth. We also asked experts to weigh in on the results.

Death: a universal phenomenon
Suze Orman, personal finance author and TV show host, questions whether the majority of Americans without wills understand the consequences of their inaction: "100 percent of all people are going to die. It's not if you're going to die, it's when you're going to die. Yet more than half don't even have a will."

Do you have a will?

This tendency to procrastinate is common to people of all education levels and walks of life, says Marshall Jones, an attorney and accredited estate planner at RMJ Family Wealth Planning in West Palm Beach, Fla. 

"It's not surprising that most people don't have a will," he says. "Most attorneys don't have a will. 

"Before I was in law school, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee died. He was a wealthy man in his own right and his committee was responsible for tax legislation. They found his will in his desk drawer ... unsigned. His family paid millions more in taxes because he did not complete his planning. Not much has changed since then. Many successful people plan every thing else in their lives except their estate plan."

-- Posted: Nov. 19, 2007
 
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