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Financial Planning > Trusts and Estates > Estate Planning

Americans, Even Advisory Clients, Have a Big Estate Planning Problem: Survey

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A majority of Americans understand the importance of estate planning, but relatively few have a plan in place, the financial services firm Edward Jones reported Monday.

Seventy-seven percent of respondents in a recent survey said estate and legacy strategies were important for everyone, not just wealthy individuals, yet only 24% said they had taken the basic step of designating beneficiaries for all of their accounts.

“It’s encouraging to see that most people recognize how a properly planned estate or legacy strategy puts you in control of what happens to what matters most to you, such as minor children, dependents, financial assets, even your own health care decisions,” Ken Cella, client services group principal at Edward Jones, said in a statement.

“What was startling is that even with this understanding, a majority of Americans still do not have a plan. Without a plan your assets could be subject to the time-consuming, expensive and very public probate process where relatives and creditors can gain access to records and even challenge your will.”

Engine’s Online Caravan Omnibus conducted the survey in July among a national sample of 2,007 adults — 1,003 men and 1,004 women.

The survey results also showed little sense of urgency among respondents in prioritizing legacy planning conversations. Of those who said they worked with financial advisors, 64% reported never having discussed estate goals and legacy plans with their advisor.

Only 34% of millennials and Gen Xers said they had talked about these goals with their advisors, and just 38% of baby boomers had done so — the generation most likely to need estate plans in the near future.

According to the report, individuals lacking an estate plan can take basic steps immediately. “Designating beneficiaries on each of your appropriate accounts is the simplest and quickest way to get started,” Scott Thoma, principal with Edward Jones’ investment strategy group, said in the statement.

“To ensure loved ones are taken care of, it’s crucial to review and update estate plans regularly, and most importantly, communicate these wishes to the beneficiaries throughout the process.”

On the bright side, survey respondents who reported that they had estate and legacy plans in place were committed to updating them and involving their families in the process.

Ninety-eight percent of the sample who said they had discussed their estate/legacy goals with their financial advisors had updated their plan since creating it.

In addition, 61% said they had involved their family the last time they reviewed their estate/legacy plan with their advisor, increasing to 74% for those with children in the household.

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