A Primer on Grown-Up Documents
Get the not-so-fun stuff—wills, life insurance, etc.—done, once and for all.
These are the things no one wants to think about—wills, life insurance, a power of attorney—but really should. It’s essential to have a plan in place if something were ever to happen to you. "Loose ends can overwhelm your family, making an already stressful and sad situation even worse," says Everplans co-founder and co-CEO Abby Schneiderman. Having a just-in-case plan is one of the less enjoyable parts of adult life, but it’ll give you peace of mind. Take care of it (almost!) painlessly with Abby's tips.
1. An advance directive
This includes a living will and health care proxy, and it’s the most essential of all your God-forbid-anything-should-happen documents. Your proxy is the person who will make medical decisions for you if you can’t make them yourself. Having a proxy in place gives you control over what you want, and doesn't put the decision-making responsibility on your loved ones, who would otherwise be forced to make the decisions themselves and live with the consequences.
2. Power of attorney (a.k.a. POA)
This is a person who can make financial decisions on your behalf (like the health care proxy, but for your money). They can pay your bills, file your taxes—everything else cash-related. Whether you're in a medical emergency or simply traveling around the world and still need money matters taken care of, identifying a POA is critical.
3. Last will and testament
If you have kids, a will is essential because you need to name a legal guardian—if someone isn’t named in your will, the courts will make the call.
4. Life insurance
If you want your family to have a financial cushion after you're gone, you should consider life insurance. While most people have a policy through their jobs, it's rarely enough to support a family. If you leave that job you'll no longer have coverage, so a stand-alone policy is the safest bet.
5. Hire a legal professional
An advanced directive and power of attorney can both be created online, but we recommend working with professional attorneys to avoid any mistakes. These documents can be very confusing and you don't want your family to have to deal with any fallout if there’s an issue. Most people have very simple estates and can knock out the legal documents they need with an estate attorney for a few hundred dollars. If your estate is more complex, it might be more expensive, but that’s all the more reason to seek out a professional. You can spend less to do it online, and that works well in a pinch, but it's reassuring to know that there's a human involved who can back it up.
6. Shop around
While we don't recommend any particular life insurance companies, there are so many options, so shop around for a good rate. The younger you are, the more affordable it is. Generally, there are two types of policies: term and whole life. Term is typically the best option for most people because it covers a specific period of time (example: 20 years) and is more affordable. Whole life never expires but can be much more expensive. Work with an insurance agent to pick the right plan for you.
7. Keep them somewhere safe
Your advance directive should be immediately accessible in the event of an emergency, as should your power of attorney information. Your will and life insurance policy should be somewhere safe and accessible, as well. If you create any of these documents with an attorney, they can store them at their office. If you want them closer to home, a locked filing cabinet will suffice. Don’t put these docs in a safe deposit box without giving a family member access, otherwise they’ll have to go through the courts to get to them. The goal is not a treasure hunt.
8. Upload scans to Everplans
Once you create these documents, it's important to make them available for when they're needed. You spent time and money getting them in place; if no one knows they exist or where they are, it's as if you didn't do them at all. Upload scans of each document to your Everplans account and let your family and friends know where to find them. You can also input information for other aspects of your life—bank accounts, house and car info, funeral wishes, passwords—that people don’t
Image Courtesy of Ivanka Trump. Graphics: Ben Wagner