Why not making a will could be a costly mistake

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NEW YORK (CBS) Not having a will could be one of the costliest mistakes people make when it comes to their personal finances. A Massachusetts woman has learned that the hard way, losing her family home.

'Looking at these first thing in the morning, makes my day," said Marcelle Harrison, whose family have lived in this Massachusetts home for four decades. Her mother and step-father purchased the property in 1980. But now she's on the brink of being kicked out because her step-father died without a will.

"I said, 'Do you believe this? I just received this envelope saying that I wasn't an heir to my stepdad,'" Harrison said.

The property is set to be inherited by a group of estranged relatives in Barbados because under Massachusetts interstate law, properties pass to the nearest blood relative in cases where there is no will.

"I'm still in shock at the whole process," Harrison said.

Around 58 percent of American adults do not have a will or trust according to a 2017 survey by Caring.com, and that could lead to serious problems according to CBS news business analyst Jill Schlesinger.

"Everybody should have a will," Schlesinger said. And she says that includes people without kids, or a lot of money. "Everybody needs to think about what would happen if I were to pass away. Who gets my stuff. Who makes financial decisions for me. Who makes health care decisions for me at end of life?"

Other essential documents include a power of attorney, a health care proxy and a letter of instruction which outlines other final wishes. Schlesinger says it's not only important to have these documents, but it's also important to create a master list of all bank accounts, investment, and insurance policies and usernames and passwords.

If Harrison's stepfather only had his wishes in writing she likely wouldn't be looking for another place to live.

"The house means so much," Harrison said. "I don't know the word to describe it but this is home. This is home."

Her only option may be to purchase the home -- now valued at more than a million dollars -- from its new heirs.