Most Americans Don't Have a Will, Says New Survey

Only One in Six Younger Americans Have a Will

Dec 01, 2010, 05:20 ET from

EAGAN, Minn., Dec. 1, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- The majority of Americans don't have a will, according to a new survey by, the most popular legal information website. Fifty-five percent of American adults have not written a will, giving them little control or input into issues such as what will happen to their assets and any minor children after they die.

A will is a basic component of estate planning. Among other things, it specifies how your assets will be distributed after you pass away, and who will receive them. Without a will, the laws of the state and the decisions of a probate court may determine how your estate is distributed, who will care for your children if they are minors, and so forth.

The situation is particularly prevalent among younger people. Only one in six people between the ages of 18 and 34 have a will. As people get older, they are more likely to have a will. The majority of people 55 and older have a will. The survey findings that the majority of Americans lack a will have been remarkably consistent since began measuring the prevalence of wills in 2001.  

"The survey found that people who are older, married and have higher incomes are more likely to have a will," said Stephanie Rahlfs, an attorney and editor for "But one doesn't necessarily need to have substantial assets or a family in order to need a will. Anyone who has specific concerns or plans as to how they would like their estate distributed in the event of their death should consult with an attorney about whether a will is appropriate."  

Additional free information on wills, trusts and estate planning, including information on finding an attorney in your area who specializes in estate planning, can be found at

The survey was conducted using a demographically balanced telephone survey of 1,000 American adults and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percent.

Note to editors: Full survey results and analysis are available upon request.