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Working Paper, No. 2006-18, 2006
Will Writing and Bequest Motives: Early 20th Century Irish Evidence
Will writing is a crucial part of the bequest process. In writing a will, an individual can choose who receives what portion of his assets, can give specific belongings to particular beneficiaries, and can provide for charities. By contrast, the assets of an individual who dies with out a will, or intestate, are divided among beneficiaries in a manner specified by the state or country in which he lived. Estimates of the percent of Americans who write wills before they die range from 30% to 50%. The existence of wills gives some indication concerning bequest motives. In particular, will writers anticipate that they are going to die with some positive estate value, care about who receives their assets, and are willing to occur a financial cost to pay for the drafting of a will. The goal of this paper is to investigate the decision to write a will in hopes that the motivations behind this decision will shed some light on bequest motives more generally.
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