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Financial Literacy - Planning for your heirs
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

Among those who do have a will, the vast majority turned to an attorney (71 percent), 14 percent wrote their own wills, 7 percent used software, 2 percent bought documents from an office supply store and the other 6 percent didn't specify.

That so many rely upon legal help to create a will may help explain the lower numbers of some groups, says Bankrate's senior financial analyst Greg McBride. "Those least likely to have a will are under age 35 or have household income under $30,000. The latter isn't surprising considering that 71 percent of those polled hired an attorney to assist in creating their will."

The next largest group, at 14 percent, wrote their own wills (the legal term is a holographic will). This surprised Jones, even more so because this percentage held about the same regardless of gender, age or income. 

"There is just so much that might be missed, including the requirement in many, if not most states, that their signature be dated and witnessed, often by two witnesses. A handwritten will invites a challenge from anyone who was left out of it."

"There are so many potential challenges," agrees Kurlowicz, "and at the very least, there will be additional unnecessary expenses if they have to probate a holographic will."

Orman has seen this ambivalence about leaving a mess behind for heirs before. "Did this poll surprise me? No, 'cause this is what I've been dealing with all these years. Yes, it is representative of what's out there."

-- Posted: Nov. 19, 2007
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