It looks like more and more Americans, especially minorities, are not planning for the future and do not have a will.
The Massachusetts Mutual Life Company conducted an online survey that polled 2,500 Americans between the ages of 45 and 60-years-old.
Their results were surprising. A full 62% of LGBT adults, 69% of Hispanic Americans, and 71% of African Americans in this age group don’t have a will or any type of estate planning. Comparatively, the survey found that roughly 60% of white, heterosexual adults did not have a will, either.
But why? Michele Zavos, an attorney who specializes in LGBT law explained to the Washington Blade that many couples, especially members of the LGBT community, do not fully comprehend their intestate succession laws. These laws explain the guidelines of property and asset succession in case of death, and they differ by state.
However, if the deceased does not have a will, many states will award their benefits to surviving family members, not their spouses. Zavos goes on to explain that this happens no matter the sexual orientation of the deceased. These state jurisdiction laws happen automatically when you register for residence in a state.
“It’s the equivalent of a will. It just says what the state wants to say, not what you want to say,” Zavos explains.
Because of this seemingly hidden rule, Zavos explains that it is more important now than ever to develop a will, especially if you are a member of the LGBT community who is estranged from their family.
It is always important to think of estate planning when you are considering life with a partner. A few tips to consider include:
- 1. Create a will. It is always a good idea to create a will by the age of 40.
- 2. Include power of attorney. Not all spouses will be automatically granted power of attorney unless already specified.
- 3. Understand tax implications. These vary by state and can be quite expensive if not prepared.
- 4. Prepare for the unexpected. Fill out a domestic partnership agreement, living wills, and a living trust in case the worst happens.