Why Every 20-Something Needs A Will

Photographed by Sam Kaplan.
Not to get morbid, but there's one more step to #adulting that you probably haven't thought about — especially if you don't have kids or a house. That's creating a will, and even though it may not be a fun thing to think about, experts say the peace of mind in getting it done is worth it.

"I'm a firm believer that every twentysomething needs a will," says Katie Gampieto Burke, a certified financial planner. "Depending on your state, documents such as a power of attorney, living will, power of attorney for healthcare, and an advanced directive for healthcare can be helpful as well."

It may sound like a lot to add to your to-do list, but experts say they're pretty simple to properly create — especially when you don't have a ton of assets. "If you're tight on money, an online will or form is better than no will," says Scott Wellikoff, a lawyer in Boca Raton, FL.

Finally, experts agree that in addition to making sure you have the legal documents completed and signed, make sure you tell your relatives and friends what your wishes are — and where they can find the documents in the (very!) unlikely event they need them. It can be helpful to give a copy of the will and related documents to a trusted friend or relative, as well as keep the originals in a safe deposit box or safe space in your home. Here's what you need to make sure your loved ones are covered.

1) Life Insurance
What It Is: In exchange for a premium, a lump sum is issued upon death to a beneficiary. This money generally covers outstanding debts and funeral expenses and is provided to a beneficiary (a relative, a friend, a child — you decide) after those expenses are paid.
How To Get It: Policies are available online and can provide a pretty immediate quote of what you'll expect to pay. Haven Life Insurance is one entirely online life insurance company that can provide an immediate quote on how much a policy may cost (around $25 to $40 a month if you don't have kids.)

2) A Last Will & Testament
What It Is: A legal document that stipulates how your assets will be divided when you pass away. Even if you have more debt than assets, a will is worth completing (and don't panic if you do have debt, because most debt — including credit card debt — won't be passed along to your parents or next of kin if you're a sole card holder). Even if your division of assets seems minor (your BFF gets your collection of vintage dresses; your work wife gets your MacBook Pro), it ensures your wishes are carried out as you intended, and takes stress off loved ones to figure it out.
How To Get It: Online templates exist. One option Wellikoff suggests if you're tight on cash but want to make sure your will is airtight is to work with an online template, and then see if you can find an estate lawyer to work with you on an hourly basis and ensure you've thought of everything.

3) An Advance Directive
What It Is: A written statement about end-of-life care if you're not able to communicate your wishes in the event of illness or accident.
How To Get It: Advance directive forms exist online and often include two elements, depending on your state: First is naming a health care proxythe person who can make decisions about the care you receive. This is imperative, especially if you want to ensure that a specific person — like your significant other — can make decisions for you instead of your next of kin. Second is the living will. This specifies what your wishes are for end-of-life care, including Do Not Resuscitate orders, and your wishes about organ donation. Again, your advance directive is something to discuss with whomever you choose as your health care proxy. It shouldn't come as a surprise that they have this responsibility later on.

Bottom line: While death is not something anyone likes to think about, it's best to be prepared. Wellikoff recommends revisiting your documents every year or so, especially if you've gotten into a new relationship, have a nephew or niece whom you may want to name as a beneficiary to your life insurance policy, or want to revise your asset allocation. And if you're doing everything online, double- and triple-check that you've followed all the directions — just one missing signature from a witness can render the entire will void. (Don't believe us? Read this horrible story about a man getting kicked out of his house by his partner's relatives because his partner didn't have a second signature on his will.)

Finally, make your last wishes an ongoing conversation with your family and friends. We're not saying you need to discuss it at every single happy hour, but once a year or so can be beneficial. After all, knowing you've got each other's backs — even into the afterlife — can only make your bond stronger.

Welcome to Death Week. This week, we'll attempt to unpack our feelings, fears, and hang-ups about death, dying, and mourning. We’ll do our best to leave no gravestone unturned.
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