Risk-reducing legal documents: Controlling personal health and financial resources

Michael R. Greenberg, Marc Weiner, Gwendolyn B. Greenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Scopus citations


Every adult can eliminate the risk of losing control of personal health decisions and financial resources by having a last will and testament, health proxy, power of attorney, and living trust. Yet evidence suggests that less than a majority of adult Americans have these documents. We surveyed 900 adult Americans (25 plus years old) to determine what factors predict the possession of these risk-reducing documents. In total, 46% had a living will and testament, 32% a durable power of attorney, 30% a health proxy, and 18% a living trust. Events that prompt people with wealth to secure these documents, such as increasing age, getting married, having children, and experiencing a life-threatening event were the strongest predictors of having a will. These were also among the strongest predictors of having a health proxy, along with a personal history of being proactive, and a family history that fostered trust of attorneys. Affluence, age, and education were the strongest predictors of having a living trust, and the strongest correlate of having a durable power of attorney was having faced a life-threatening event, positive experiences with attorneys, and higher educational achievement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1578-1587
Number of pages10
JournalRisk Analysis
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Physiology (medical)


  • Age
  • Legal documents
  • Life-threatening events
  • Risk
  • Will

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