When it comes to estate planning, many Americans are unprepared for what comes after death. Two out of three adults do not have a will or other estate planning documents, according to the caregiving website Caring.com. But the number of young adults ages 18 to 34 with estate planning documents increased by 63% since 2020, due in big part to the coronavirus pandemic.
For young adults, the more pressing issues beyond the distribution of family assets may be naming a health care proxy and power of attorney, CBS News business analyst Jill Schlesinger told CBSN.
"What you really want to think about when it comes to estate planning... is who will make a health care decision on my behalf if I can't do that myself? And who will make a business or financial decision on my behalf if I can't?" Schlesinger said. "This doesn't mean that you're on life support. This could mean that you're in the hospital, you're sort of laid up for a while."
When it comes to medical directives, she recommended spelling out your treatment wishes as much as you can.
"This is a very big deal to put in someone's lap. So the more detailed you can be about your wishes, the better it will be, and the easier it will for the person who is your health care agent to carry out your wishes," Schlesinger said.
For those concerned about the costs of hiring an estate attorney, which could fare thousands of dollars, start by looking at less costly online planning services.
"I'm really excited by this idea that the online planning universe has really upped its game and there are a lot of programs out there. There's a lot of companies that are providing what I would say are simple documents that can guide you through this process," Schlesinger said.
"If you have a complicated situation, however — maybe you have kids, maybe you have an ex, maybe there's an adoption, maybe you're not in great standing with the rest of your family — you should probably get a qualified estate attorney in the state in which you reside," she added. "Because remember, all of the state law really does go back to the state level, not just the federal level."
At the end of the day, Schlesinger said the process is "not meant to make you freak out about death or illness."
"Why is this so important? Because you don't really know what it is you want until you're prompted to think about it."