A common question that I get from prospective clients is what the likelihood of an untimely death is for them. The quick answer to that question is that you are asking the wrong question. Here is the long answer:
In 2007, in the age group of 25-44, there were 121,087 deaths in the United States. Of these, the leading cause was accidents (24%). Next was cancer (14%) and after that was heart disease (12%). The same year, in the age group of 45-64, there were 469,491 deaths in the United States, but the leading cause was cancer (32%). Next was heart disease (21%) and accidents still made the Top 3 at 6%. (You can verify this information at the CDC website.)
As far as your relationship to those numbers goes, an insurance agent could better guide you on that than I could. They would take into account things like family and medical history, occupation, marital status, activities, and numerous other factors. Then they would tell you either that 1) they will insure you at a reasonable rate; 2) they will insure you at a higher rate than someone who is a lesser risk; or 3) they will not insure you.
When I look at those numbers, what I think is, "Holy Cow, that is a lot of people to die at a rather young age." I think, "Wow, why wouldn't one of those people be me?" Statistically, as a white female, I am expected to live to be 80.7. My great-grandmother lived to 102. My grandmother died in her 50s of causes I do not know. My mother died at age 30 in a car accident. Even though I know the statistics about someone like me, my personal experience shows me that sometimes you cannot think about these types of matters as an insurance company does. (For what it is worth, the insurance company thinks I am insurable at a reasonable rate!)
Another reason why the untimely death question is the wrong one: It totally ignores the issue of disability/incapacity, when actually, if the numbers above scared you at all, the numbers for disability are much higher. People are generally 4 times more likely to be prematurely disabled than they are to die prematurely. The implications of that can be huge.
The right question to ask is: If I die or am disabled and/or incapacitated prematurely, what will the impact be on my family, and is it in my power to minimize any of that impact?
That is the question that I want you to bring to your attorney at your first estate planning meeting. "What are the chances?"; "How much does a will cost?"; "How can I check this off my to-do list quickly, cheaply, and easily?" All those questions do not matter if you do not know 1) what things will look like for your family if something happens to you; and 2) whether it is in your power to minimize that impact.
These are questions that only an estate planning attorney can answer for you. I urge you to make today the day you get started on getting a plan in place to protect your family. Picking up the phone to make the first appointment is half the battle.
To your family's health & prosperity,
P.S. Want to get started on the most important planning you'll ever do for your family? Give our office a call at (503) 235-5150 to get started. You'll be glad you did.