Most Adult Children Uninformed About Documents

New York, NY; April 22, 2015 — Only a little over half (56%) of American parents have a will or living trust document, according to a new survey of adult children. Nearly one-third of parents (27%) do not have estate documents in place and 16% of adult children are unsure if their parents do. Of those that do have a will, 40% have updated it in the last 1-5 years. Twenty-four percent of adult children don’t know if their parent’s will has ever been updated.

Even when parents do have estate documents in place, adult children are mostly uninformed about where the documents can be found and what is written in them. Over half (52%) of adult children don’t know where their parents store their estate documents. And 58% don’t know the contents of the documents. Interestingly, females tend to be more informed about the contents of the documents than men (49% vs. 34%). But, men are more likely than women to know where the documents are stored (52% vs. 44%).

“Wills and estate documents can be a touchy subject, but they are necessary conversations to have,” said Andy Cohen, CEO of “Too often the surviving family members are left not knowing where to find the documents, or worse, have to go through a lengthy and expensive legal process because no documents were ever created.”

While adults 18-49 years old are the least likely to be informed about their parents’ documents, adults 50 years and older don’t fare much better. Twenty-nine percent of 50-64 year olds don’t know where their parents’ documents are stored and 38% don’t know the contents. For those 65 and older, 23% don’t know where the documents are stored and a startling 44% don’t know the contents.

“This is clearly not just a millennial issue,” said Cohen. “It’s sad to say, but most middle-aged Americans will likely have a parent who is nearing the end of their life. Remember, your parents are going to have bank accounts, a house and other assets that will need to be taken care of in a timely manner. Having the documents in place before tragedy strikes will make the aftermath much less stressful and will save money in the long run.”

Additional Findings:

  • Republicans (67%) are more likely to have a parent with a will or living trust than Democrats (58%) and Independents (52%).
  • Females tend to have more knowledge about their parents’ wills than their male counterparts. This is likely due to the fact that females typically act as caregivers more often than men.
  • Americans in the Midwest are more likely to have a parent with a will or living trust than any other region.

The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI) and can be seen in its entirety here:


PSRAI obtained telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults living in the continental United States. Interviews were conducted by landline (500) and cell phone (500, including 298 without a landline phone) in English and Spanish by Princeton Data Source from March 5-8, 2015. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.