4 minute read

National Estate Planning Study: What do Americans Want to Pass Down?

Explore insights from Trust & Will's newest estate planning study, focusing on inheritance and what Americans want to pass down to the next generations.

Americans would rather inherit a pet from a loved one than a car, according to new research.

A poll of 2,000 U.S. adults revealed that the top assets respondents would like to inherit one day are a house or property (65%), followed by their four-legged friends (59%) and money (58%). 

A little more than half (53%) would like to be passed down collectibles or a car.

Even so, one-third (32%) of Americans haven’t considered what happens to their assets when they die. 

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Trust & Will, the survey explored how Americans plan for their digital futures.

Americans manage their health and health (58%), finances (52%), estate planning (51%), and even relationships and friendships (52%) digitally.

In fact, 64% prefer to manage their finances using digital banking platforms over traditional in-person banking methods (24%). 

Each year, Americans e-sign, or digitally sign, something an average of five times. Over the past year, those items included health services (56%), offer letters (47%), sales contracts (43%) along with estate planning documents, including wills and testaments (43%).

Digging deeper into future planning, a similar number of respondents both have a will (45%) or are included in someone else’s estate plan (46%).

Half (51%) expect to inherit something from a loved one when they pass, and results revealed that respondents prefer valuable heirlooms to sentimental ones (44% vs 27%).

Two in five respondents admit that they’d be jealous of family members who inherited more than they did.

And it seems that the old saying “you can’t take it with you,” might have lost some appeal; respondents would rather save their money for future generations than spend it all when they’re alive (47% vs 30%).

When asked the most sentimental thing they’d either want or have inherited from a loved one, responses varied from “My dad’s ring,” to “my mother’s watch,” or “a coin from my father that was very important and personal to him.”

For others, it goes much deeper.  “Photographs of my family and the special moments I can go look at to remind of a simpler time and the moments of good memories.” 

“In today’s tech-focused world, it’s important to transform the traditional, often complex, estate planning journey into a user-friendly, completely customized digital experience. It’s compelling to see that 64% of Americans now prefer managing their finances on digital platforms,” said Cody Barbo, Founder and CEO of Trust & Will. “The significance of planning for the future and ensuring that your loved ones are cared for should not be mired in complexity. We are working to erase barriers that prohibit families from creating a legacy, and are actively supporting legislation that allows people to create and sign their estate plans end-to-end digitally.” 

More than half of respondents (59%) correctly identified the difference between a will and a trust.

But when it comes to actually identifying what is included in a will, Americans are less informed. Most know that beneficiaries (65%), instructions for how and when beneficiaries will receive assets (58%), and an executor (53%) are commonly included in a will.

But others incorrectly assume that wills include who has the legal right to your assets while you’re living (41%) and even debts (23%), which is not the case.

“The results underscore a crucial insight: while a good portion of Americans can distinguish between a will and a trust, there's a tangible knowledge gap regarding the specifics of each,” adds Barbo. “It’s important to note that these documents are not mutually exclusive; utilizing both a will and trust creates a robust, comprehensive estate plan, ensuring all aspects of your estate are handled according to your wishes and efficiently distributed to your heirs.”

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 general population Americans was commissioned by Trust & Will between September 15 and September 20, 2023. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

Trust & Will is an online service providing legal forms and information. We are not a law firm and we do not provide legal advice.


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