Plan On It: Why I Wrote a Will and You Should Too

No matter how young you are or where you are in life, you need a will. You just never know what might happen.


recently decided to write a will. That might seem like a bizarre thing to do for a 33-year-old, but I’ve been thinking about it for a while. A few years ago, a friend of mine was riding his motorcycle on the H-1 when a driver swerved into his lane. My buddy was thrown off his bike and spent a few days in the hospital. Fortunately, his injuries weren’t life-threatening. But if they had been, at least his affairs were in order because he had a will. “You just never know,” he’d told me several months prior to the accident when I asked him why a 20-something who sat at a computer all day needed to have a last will and testament ready to go.


Makes sense. But of course, like most big decisions in my life, I put off getting one of my own. Setting up a will always took a back seat to work and my daily life.


According to Gallup, less than half of adults in the U.S. have a will in place. That population not only includes me but also my mother, who, despite being a home health nurse who specializes in senior care, has avoided getting a will for herself. It’s something that only old people do, she reasoned. She’s healthy and “not old at all.” Over the course of her 20-year career, she’s seen the havoc that not having a will can cause for families when a person passes away, but she’s also seen the arguments and anger that sometimes emerge in conversations about advance health care directives, estate planning and inheritances.


Post It

Image: Getty Images


Maybe because of this, my mother instead opted for years to scribble her various bank account numbers, email addresses and other critical info onto Post-its that she would give me while I was in the middle of doing something else. “If anything happens to me, you’ll be sorry if you don’t know this stuff!” she’d say. I’d absentmindedly stick the notes in a binder or between the pages of a book for safekeeping. Then I’d rediscover them months or years later with no clue what the numbers meant. It wasn’t a great system.


Technically, Hawai‘i accepts holographic wills, or wills that are handwritten and signed without a lawyer and a notary. But a more formal, notarized will seems like a safer way to go. I reached out to a local estate attorney for his take on the process so I could look into getting one for both my mother and myself. I figured it might be easier to convince my mom to write a will if she went through the process with me. We both need one because, well, we all need one. Plus—in case anyone forgot—we’re all still technically experiencing a pandemic that has claimed millions of lives. As my friend would say: “You just never know.”


The lawyer’s advice was to begin with a conversation: What do I want to happen if I get seriously injured and can’t make decisions on my own? What do I want done with my remains when I die? And, of course, who am I leaving all my billions of dollars and nifty trinkets to?


For mom and me, having this conversation was the most critical part. All those years she spent caring for other people’s elders, I thought—and maybe she did too—that it somehow insulated her from getting old. Meanwhile in her mind, I was probably always going to remain a little kid. Like a lot of families, the two of us were content with never broaching the topic of our final wishes—or at least, never being in a situation where we needed to.


We’re still currently in the process of finalizing our wills. I’m glad we talked about it, even though I knew it’d be an awkward conversation. Luckily, I broke the ice by offering her my prized collection of gently used Post-its.