Every person needs an estate plan to protect the people, communities, and causes they care about, but over half of American adults do not have an up-to-date will in place. There are several reasons people hesitate to start or complete their estate plans.

I don’t have a large estate, so I don’t need a will.

No matter how much you own, it’s important to have a plan in place for your assets. Having a will makes the estate administration process easier and faster for your loved ones and avoids any guesswork. In addition to passing on your property and possessions, a will can also:

  • Protect your minor children by choosing responsible guardians for them
  • Name caretakers for your beloved pets
  • Create a lasting legacy with causes you care about through a planned gift

My family knows my wishes, so I don’t need a will.

Even if your family knows what you want, they cannot make decisions for you in lieu of a will. Instead, a local court will make those decisions based on your state’s laws. Court proceedings can be long and costly — but they can be easily avoided with a valid estate plan in place.

I wrote my will 20 years ago, so I’m set.

If you’ve had a major life change since you last created your estate plan (e.g. acquiring property, having a child or grandchild, getting a new pet), your will needs to reflect these changes. It is therefore recommended that you update your will every five years.

My will can’t make a difference.

By including a legacy gift in your estate plan, you can make a lasting impact on the causes you care about—often more than you would expect. Many WashU alumni and supporters create bequests to support student scholarships, world-renowned faculty, and groundbreaking research.

Estate planning is expensive.

If your estate is simple, you may not need to hire an attorney — you can make a legally-valid will on your own, free of charge or at a fraction of the cost. WashU has partnered with FreeWill* to share an online estate planning tool that makes writing or updating your legal will simple and free. FreeWill can also be used to create a list of documented wishes to give yourself a head start when visiting your attorney if you’d prefer to finalize your plans with a professional.

*FreeWill is an online service that provides legal forms and legal information. Freewill is not a law firm and is not a substitute for an attorney’s advice. Please see an attorney for any specific questions or concerns regarding your estate plan.