Prince didn’t have one. Neither did Howard Hughes, Abraham Lincoln, or Michael Jackson. These are just a few of the famous people who died without a will. And unfortunately, it’s not all that uncommon an occurrence, regardless of a person’s celebrity status.

According to a 2015 study, 64% of all Americans die without a will. The number is even higher, a whopping 70%, for Americans between the ages of 45 and 54. And the percentage of 55-64 year old individuals who die without a will is also surprisingly high at 54%.

Without a will, the laws of the state where you live determine who receives your assets and who controls your estate after your death. The absence of a will more often than not results in the need to litigate the estate in probate court, thus greatly increasing the chances that the estate will not be distributed as the decedent had envisioned.

Even with a modest estate, it’s never a legally sound idea to die intestate. So why is it that such a high percentage of individuals fail to create a will before they die? Some of the reasons may surprise you.

  • A mistrust of professionals
  • The belief that it’s too costly to draft a will
  • Contrary to religious beliefs
  • Procrastination
  • Denial of mortality
  • The desire to have heirs fight
  • A belief that there isn’t much to distribute

No matter the reason, failing to sign important legal documents like a will may leave one’s heirs and legacy embroiled in an expensive and drawn-out legal battle. Rather than leaving your estate in the hands of strangers or putting your loved ones through a messy court case, you can always consult an experienced attorney to create an enforceable, effective will.