Part of a Living Will Declaration. A new survey reports that a little more than half of American parents do not have a will or living trust. 
Part of a Living Will Declaration. A new survey reports that a little more than half of American parents do not have a will or living trust.  - 
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Just 56 percent of American parents have gone through the fairly uncomfortable process of writing up a last will and testament to divide up their assets among beneficiaries upon their death, according to a new survey from Caring.com.

Not having an estate well ordered before your death can result in turmoil after your passing. Some famous examples are the estates of Jimi Hendrix, Martin Luther King Jr., and Robin Williams. 

"If the person has gotten their lives and their paperwork in order then it should be a fairly simple process," says Sally Hurme, author of ABA/AARP Checklist for My Family: A Guide to My History, Financial Plans and Final Wishes.

But it's not always so easy. Andy Cohen, CEO of Caring.com, says using an additional step—placing assets into a living trust—can help keep your estate out of probate court, in which a judge determines who gets what.

If you don't do that, "the estate goes to probate. It can drag on in the courts for years, it can cost a lot of money and most importantly it’s a lot of heartache for the families."

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Follow Tim Fitzsimons at @@tfitzsimons