Sixty-two percent of LGBT adults aged 45 to 60 do not have a will, according to a newly released survey conducted by the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance company.
The survey, which was conducted online, found that a similar number (60 percent) of adults in the general population in that same age range did not have a will.
By comparison, 69 percent of Hispanic respondents and 71 percent of African-American respondents reported not having a will, according to the survey, which consisted of a total sample of 2,500 Americans between the ages of 45 and 60. Out of that total, 500 identified as members of the LGBT community.
The survey was conducted Aug. 8-14, 2016.
“Leaving a positive, meaningful legacy is important for LGBT adults,” said Wonhong Lee, assistant vice president for Mass Mutual’s consumer and diversity group, which provides services for LGBT consumers. “That’s why we want to help them align their legacy, values and aspirations when planning for their loved ones’ financial future,” he said.
Lee said that although Mass Mutual’s main product is life insurance policies the company also provides financial planning services to its clients.
Michele Zavos, a Silver Spring, Md., attorney specializing in LGBT family law, said she and other members of her firm, Zavos-Juncker, have observed anecdotally a similarly high number of LGBT people who don’t have a will.
“I think that one misimpression that should be corrected when we say people don’t have wills is that they don’t have a will that they proactively prepared themselves,” she said. “But they do have a will. Their jurisdiction of residence writes it for them.”
Added Zavos: “So everybody has a will. It’s just a matter of whether you know what it says or not” and whether it’s in your best interest or not.
According to Zavos, people who are married – whether gay or straight – often don’t realize that state laws that determine who inherits the assets of someone who doesn’t have a will often do not award the entire estate to the surviving spouse. In many states, Zavos said, the deceased person’s children and parents are awarded a sizable part of the estate, with the spouse getting a smaller part.
It all depends on the laws of your jurisdiction of residence, which are known as intestate succession laws, she said. “It’s the equivalent of a will. It just says what the state wants to say, not what you want to say.”
For that and other reasons, Zavos said, it is important that all adults, especially LGBT people who may be estranged from blood relatives who aren’t accepting of their sexual orientation or gender identity, take immediate steps to obtain a legally prepared will.
The survey found that LGBT adults along with adults in the general population have a better record of documenting personal financial information such as financial accounts and insurance information. Sixty-one percent of LGBT adults aged 45 to 60 reported having done this, the survey found, compared to 60 percent of adults in that same age range in the general population.
But the survey also found that LGBT respondents in the survey were among the least likely to say they have a child who has access to their important financial information (10 percent). By comparison, 33 percent of African-American respondents and 25 percent of Hispanic respondents reported having a child with access to their financial information.
LGBT respondents, however, were significantly more likely to report having shared their financial information with a “special friend” (10 percent) versus 3 percent with Hispanic and 3 percent African-American respondents.
More information about the survey can be obtained at massmutual.com/lgbt.