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What is a 'Will' and Do I Need One?

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Wednesday, August 31, 2022   

August is National Make-a-Will Month, and if you still have not started, experts say there is no good reason to put it off.

End-of-life planning can save loved ones stress, time, and money. It is estimated more than half of Americans do not have a will, and even fewer have what is known as a living will, which includes medical-care preferences if they are unable to speak for themselves.

Sam Young, senior director of legacy and planned giving for Compassion & Choices, said it can be easy to procrastinate, because people assume it is too expensive, too complicated, or just too tough to think about the fact they won't live forever.

"COVID has really made us more aware of this, you know," Young remarked. "It's not just being terminally ill, or old. Any of us can have a situation where we have to face that mortality."

He also stressed estate planning is not just for wealthy people, one of the most common myths about wills. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the number of 18- to 34-year-olds with estate planning documents has increased by 50%.

Young noted you can consult an attorney to get started on your will, but he wants people to know the website FreeWill.com is another option. It can help you create a document for free.

"It's a comprehensive resource that allows you to literally create a will. When you're done ... you can print it out," Young explained. "You have to get it notarized and witnessed, depending on the requirements."

Research has found at the height of the pandemic, many states' legal systems were not equipped to address the uptick in self-made wills. Young added Compassion & Choices provides online guides for dementia directives, power of attorney, and other end-of-life-related services.

Disclosure: Compassion & Choices contributes to our fund for reporting on Civic Engagement, Health Issues, Senior Issues, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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