Updated: Mar 30
Don’t wait for a major life event to start planning for the future. Learn why and how you should be creating an end-of-life plan in your 20s.
Written by: Abby K. - EstateBox Student Intern As twenty-somethings, our life planning right now typically involves university, gaining work experience, traveling, job hunting, and maybe planning to buy our first home. The busyness of life means that end-of-life planning probably isn’t on most of our radars. And let’s be honest… no one wants to think about this stuff, especially at our age. We’re invincible, aren’t we? 😅
We don’t talk about estate planning enough, regardless of our age. Some folks never even create an end-of-life plan! But end-of-life planning is a lifelong process which can be started as soon as you become a legal adult.
(A note as you read: we use the terms end of life planning, estate planning, and life and legacy planning interchangeably. They all refer to one thing - being prepared for whatever life throws your way.)
Why start end-of-life planning early?
If you’re a young person with no major assets or dependents, end-of-life and estate planning may seem futile. However, getting an early start is highly beneficial. Anyone above the age of majority (that's 18 in Canada) should recognize their mortality and have a basic end-of-life plan to protect themselves and their loved ones. Here are four reasons you should begin planning now.
Life is unpredictable
No matter how much we plan, we can’t control the future. Life is inherently unpredictable. EstateBox CEO and founder, Anjali Coyle, is familiar with the uncertainties of life. She certainly never expected to receive a life-threatening cancer diagnosis in her 30s, while caring for two young boys and navigating a successful law career.
Opening up difficult conversations
How much do you know about your parent’s end-of-life wishes? Do you know if their wishes are documented? Creating your own end-of-life plan can open up the conversation of death and mortality with your family and those you care about. These are uncomfortable yet unavoidable conversations, particularly for older generations.
Making medical care decisions
Knowing and informing others about your medical care wishes is important, especially once you become a legal adult. Once you are the age of majority, your parents can no longer access your medical records without your permission, and are no longer your substitute decision makers by default. Having even a simple personal directive or advance care plan (we’ll talk about these later) can help your parents and loved ones avoid potentially lengthy legal proceedings and enable them to make decisions based on your wishes.
If you have strained relationships with your parents or other family members, it’s crucial to have the right legal documents in place so that your chosen family and the people you care about can make important medical decisions on your behalf.
Simplifying the process
It is much easier to add to your end-of-life plan as you age, as opposed to having to retroactively catalog all of your assets in 20 years. Creating an end-of-life and estate plan are often daunting tasks, especially when you already have many assets, investments, and dependents to document. Life gets complicated fast, and having a baseline plan you can add to will keep everything up to date with minimal hassle.
How to begin thinking about end-of-life planning
In general, mortality isn’t something that we think about until we are directly faced with it - whether that be a loved one passing away, or a personal near-death experience. Either way, thinking about mortality after a stressful or traumatic event often brings about fear and heightened stress around end-of-life planning, making it even harder than it already is.
This is why it is wise to reflect on death and mortality when you are healthy physically and mentally, and not under duress or time constraints. These types of reflections and conversations can bring up a lot of emotions so if you’re having a difficult time processing, reach out for help.
Reflecting on your mortality can be triggering, and may bring up some overwhelming emotions. Go at your own pace, stop if you feel overwhelmed, and seek help if you need it. You can find crisis support as well as provincial/territorial resources here. Try asking yourself some or all of these questions to begin your reflection on mortality:
When you hear the word death, what immediately comes to mind? Try writing down the first five words you think of.
How would you describe your relationship with death?
Have you had negative experiences with death? How have they impacted you?
Have you had positive experiences with death? How have they impacted you?
Are you able to have open conversations about death with anyone in your life? If yes, who?
Think about what health care treatments you're comfortable with. When would you accept life-saving treatments like a feeding tube or breathing machine? Consider when you would and wouldn't accept life support. These are hard things to think about, but if you don't decide for yourself, your loved ones could be forced to decide for you.
Think about everything you own. Which items are worth the most money? Which items have the most sentimental value? If you died, who would you want to have those items?
Consider three of your guiding principles; how could you apply them to your end-of-life plan? For example, prioritizing family and friends may be one of your guiding principles. In your estate plan this could look like requesting to live with family instead of in a care home, or stating the importance that regular visits with loved ones will maintain your quality of life.
What do you value most about your life now? Consider things you take for granted: mobility, memory, independence, work, etc. This reflection will guide your advance care plan. Keep your answers in mind while deciding when you want medical intervention and what you are willing to give up for more time.
Where to start end-of-life planning
Now you know that you should have an end-of-life plan, but how do you make one? While end-of-life planning is relatively simple when you start young, it does still require legal documents. However, they don’t all require a lawyer and in most cases creating these documents can be simple and affordable. Here are four legal documents you should have in place, and how to get them.
1. Health care proxy
Once you turn 18 you are responsible for all decisions regarding your health. Your parents no longer have access to your medical records and other healthcare-related information. For example, if you are studying away from home your guardian could have challenges obtaining information on your condition in an emergency, even if you are still on your parent’s insurance plan.
Designating your parents, guardians, or loved one as a health care proxy through your advance directive (see below) will allow them to make decisions about your healthcare without going through the courts.
2. Advance directive
Making sure your parents or loved one have the ability to make healthcare decisions on your behalf is only the first step - they need to be informed about the decisions you want them to make. An advance directive (sometimes called a living will) is a written statement of your wishes regarding medical treatment. Do you want extreme measures to be taken? How long are you okay with being on life support? Are you an organ donor? Having the answers to these questions will equip your healthcare proxy to honour your wishes to the best of their ability.
There are many online resources available to help you create a simple advance directive. We have compiled a resource with free advance directive templates for each province and territory that will guide you through the entire process. You can designate your health care proxy within the advance directive. If your situation is complex, or you don’t understand portions of the advance directive, it is strongly recommended that you speak to a professional.
Remember to go over your advance directive with your proxy, upload a copy to your EstateBox, and ensure your primary care physician has it on file.
3. Financial power of attorney
Even if you don’t have much to your name, chances are you have a bank account, a credit card, and maybe even some investments (like an RRSP or TFSA). Naming your parents or loved one as your financial power of attorney will allow them to manage your finances if you become unable to do so. Having a financial power of attorney is not only helpful in cases of medical emergencies, but in any case where you are unable to handle your finances. For example, if you are traveling abroad and lose your credit card, your attorney (whoever you’ve appointed becomes your “attorney”, even if they’re not a lawyer) can help watch for fraud and cancel it if necessary.
There are a few ways to make a financial power of attorney. The most obvious option is to hire a lawyer. If your financial situation is complex this may be the best option for you. You can also create a power of attorney through an online service like Willful or by using an online template. Be sure to provide your financial power of attorney to any financial institutions you use.
Finally, the legal document everyone thinks of when they hear end-of-life planning - a will. People often put off writing their will until major life events like getting married, having children, and buying a house. But even if these don’t apply to you, you still assets that will need to be distributed should something happen to you. For example, a car, a pet (who are considered property under the law), special jewelry, technology, collectors items, etc. should have documented beneficiaries in order to avoid tension and complications. Your will isn’t a static document; you can build and amend it as you naturally acquire more assets.
Online will creation services are ideal for young folks. Willful is a company that provides both cost-effective and legally sound wills in Canada. They also offer mentioned Power of Attorney documents.
We strongly recommend that you speak to who you have chosen as your executor to confirm that they are up for the job. Then, put the hard-copy of your will in a safe place (if applicable) and upload a copy to your EstateBox.
Feeling overwhelmed with end-of-life planning?
EstateBox was built with you in mind - it is designed to remove the barriers and shift perceptions around estate planning by making it simple, inclusive and accessible to all. We know it can be difficult to know what information you should collect and store in order to have a well-documented, comprehensive plan. The streams in the platform - including personal documents, health, assets, and many more to come - guide you through exactly what documents and information to collect and upload. We worked with estate planners, lawyers, healthcare professionals, and wealth managers to understand everything that makes a sound end-of-life plan, so you don’t have to figure it out yourself. EstateBox will guide you through end-of-life planning, storing all of your important information in one place. And as you get older and your life gets more complicated, your EstateBox will be there to keep it all organized and up to date. Create your account today and enjoy a 60-day free trial (no credit card or code required) to help you get started on your life and legacy plan. Related Posts:
While we’re passionate about all things estate planning, we’re not professionals. We recommend speaking with your lawyer or financial advisor when putting together an estate plan. Follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram!