The firm surveyed more than 3,000 respondents in the US over the age of 18, with a focus on Americans 55 and older.
It found only 18% of people over the age of 55 have all three expert-recommended legacy plan essentials, which include: a will, a health care directive and a durable power of attorney.
Lorna Sabbia, head of retirement and personal wealth solutions at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said: “As rising longevity reshapes Americans’ later years, it’s critical that people take early and comprehensive steps to prepare essential documents, communicate their preferences, and shape the legacies they wish to leave behind.
“Not only does this give individuals control, but it also helps simplify the transfer of assets and protect loved ones.”
Open to talk
Despite common assumptions that death is a taboo topic, nine in 10 Americans said they are open to discussing end-of-life preferences with family and friends.
Around 87% of Americans age 55+ said it is a parent’s responsibility to initiate a conversation with their children about their legacy.
More than two-thirds of respondents said that children who have provided care to them in their later years should receive a larger inheritance than those who did not.
And those who need it most, should get more as well.