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More Americans Plan For End Of Life, Yet Population Still Lags

In recent years, people have become more aware of the importance of end of life planning, from writing a will to arranging for medical care. In fact, the turnaround has been so significant that research shows, as of 2010, 72% of elderly patients now have living wills, an increase from just 47% in 2000. Similarly, 83% of those over age 72 have traditional wills – but those numbers quickly drop off among younger Americans.

What will it take to convince young people that making a will is important? These four factors could encourage those Americans without wills to put their affairs in order, no matter how remote the prospect of death.

Taking Control

One reason that older Americans have begun to prioritize living wills is that these documents allow them to take control over their end of life care, a concern that tends to become more pressing as friends and relatives pass away. Younger people, however, tend to be hesitant to look death in the face, so they tend to avoid drawing up such documents.

Unfortunately, illness and death are unpredictable. By framing both living wills and traditional wills as a means of taking control over end of life care, patients may be more willing to draft such documents. It’s also important to emphasize that these documents can – and should – be regularly updated based on changing circumstances.

Assigning Power Of Attorney

In addition to ensuring control during end of life decision making, young people should also consider that a living will can allow them to select who they want to make decisions if something serious happens. Generally, in the event of an emergency, parents will step in to make decisions, but they may have a long-term partner or friend who they would prefer to have in charge of their care. At a time when young people are working hard to establish their independence, having the right legal documents in place can feel like an important step towards adulthood.

Minimizing Family Stress

Another factor that may motivate younger Americans to draw up a will is that it can help minimize stress on surviving family members after death. Without a will, your assets can get held up in probate court and it can take months of legal negotiations to set things in order. In fact, many people first write a will after their own parents pass away, particularly if their parents didn’t have an up to date will.

Providing For Children

If haggling over one’s parents will doesn’t convince people to write wills, becoming parents themselves can be a major motivator. When you have children, it’s critical that you develop a comprehensive will and estate plan, including assigning guardians for your child or children. Talking to your family and friends about who will take over care of your children if you and your partner pass away is also a good way to get the conversation about end of life planning started among young people, such as the 78% of millennials who don’t have a will.

Many people think they don’t need a will or estate plan if they aren’t wealthy – after all, what is there to distribute? – but everyone should have end of life documents, and they don’t need to be complicated. In fact, those with few assets can even opt to use basic form documents to complete the process. Generally speaking, only those with significant assets or a complicated estate need a lawyer to draw up their wills.

Writing a will and assigning a power of attorney are an important part of taking responsibility for your assets, and caring for your family, which is why young people need to stop claiming they “haven’t had time” or they don’t need one. Everyone needs a will – no exceptions.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes.

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