Only 20 to 25 percent of Americans have end-of-life instructions or living wills, according to a recent article in the Miami Herald.
That figure is even lower for minorities and those middle-aged and younger. In fact, the article points out that of those in a nursing home, blacks are half as likely as whites to have any kind of end-of-life instructions, according to a statistic taken from a recent Department of Health and Human Services report.
"People know they have to do it, but they always think they have time or that they'll get to it one day," University of Miami Professor Stephen Sapp told the Herald.
There was a brief increase in living wills in 2005 around the time of the Terri Schaivo case, a court battle which ensued between the husband and parents of a woman who was in a vegetative state over whether or not to take her off life support. This situation, which could have been avoided if Schaivo had an advance directive stating what her wishes were, prompted an increase in people preparing themselves for such an incident, but not for long.
Having end-of-life instructions as well as a living will and adequate life insurance are essential preparations to ease an already difficult time for the family members of the deceased.