No one likes to think about dying — and that is probably one reason most Americans lack wills.
Fewer than half of American adults (42 percent) have a will, according to a survey published this week on Caring.com, a website that offers resources for older Americans and their caregivers.
The most common excuse given for not having a will (or an alternative legal tool called a living trust) was, "I just haven't gotten around to it," cited by nearly half of survey participants who lacked one.
"Most people run from, and don't want to think about, their own death," said Arthur Kovacs, a clinical psychologist in Santa Monica, Calif.
People are more likely, though, to have important estate planning documents as they age. Just one in five millennials — adults 18 to 36 — has a will, the survey found. But 81 percent of people 72 and older have one.
The survey, by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, questioned more than 1,000 adults by telephone in January. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus four percentage points. (Caring.com makes money from advertising and from referrals to senior care facilities.)
Having a will is important to ensure that your money and belongings are distributed according to your wishes after you die, said Sally Hurme, an elder-law attorney affiliated with AARP. "It determines how anything you own is going to be distributed to people you want to receive it, after your death," she said.