2021 End of Life Survey: Are Americans Prepared?

Until they discover the fountain of youth, odds are, everyone’s time must come to an end. We can choose to leave a legacy, or a mess behind us when it does. Preparing for the end of our life gives direction on how we want things to play out when we’re gone—what to do with the house, the dog, and any money we have saved. It also makes things easier on our loved ones, who will be dealing with what we leave behind when the time comes.

We wanted to find out how well America is prepared for death—from prepping their wills to leaving instructions for their loved ones regarding their personal affairs. . We asked 1,500 Americans about their end-of-life preparations and opinions to find out what plans they have (or don’t have). Here’s what we found.

 

Do Americans Have Their Wills in Order?

A will is an essential part of your end-of-life planning. Without it, big legal complications may arise, and your loved ones may be left with a big mess to deal with on top of grieving your loss. Depending on the state you live in, your assets may be frozen and unable to be distributed. Or the main representative from your estate will be chosen to divide everything up. Along with legal complications, there are bound to be family feuds.

A will can avoid such issues and alleviate stress from your family and closest friends. But only one in three Americans report that they have a will.

And two-thirds of respondents believe you should create a will by the time you turn 50.

While it sounds fairly reasonable to have created a will by age 50, the earlier you create it, the better things will be moving forward. It’s much easier to continually add new assets and make smaller changes to a will throughout your lifetime than it is to set everything up after you’ve retired and have to think about all of your assets and possessions at once. Plus, on the rare occasion that something should happen to you before you turn 50, your family and loved ones will know what to do.

More than half of respondents had a loved one die without a will. Of those, 54% said things went poorly.

This means they likely had to deal with issues such as frozen bank accounts and, in some cases, figuring out who has to take on pet or parenting responsibilities, and any probate fees they may have needed to pay to settle the estate.

 

What will happen to your body?

Do you know what you want to have done with your body once you pass on? Would you rather be buried or cremated? Or is there something else you’d like to have done, like mummification or donating your body to science? If you’re cremated, what do you want your loved ones to do with your ashes?

This is something many of us have thought about and possibly even told our family and friends. But if you haven’t created a will and specified how things should be handled, then your wishes may not be honored—except in the case of organ donation.

Over half of respondents reported marking “yes” to being an organ donor. Indicating whether or not you want to donate your organs on your driver’s license ensures others know what to do with your organs once you pass.

Those that have decided not to donate their organs have varying reasons for not doing so, including simply not thinking about it or not believing their organs will be usable.

 

Paying for funeral costs

Funerals can serve as a celebration of one’s life. And like any other celebration, funerals can get expensive. A typical funeral costs about $7,360. For this reason, many Americans are choosing cremation over burial, as it’s typically a more affordable option. While cremation can help cut costs, the average cost of a cremation with a funeral service is still $6,260.

Many people don’t have the proper funds set aside to pay for a funeral if something should happen to them at this point in their life. In fact, 73% of respondents don’t have enough money set aside to cover the cost of the average funeral.

Additionally, some people aren’t planning ahead for how their funeral will be paid for. Twenty-six percent of respondents reported that they (or their families) plan to use crowdfunding to pay for their funeral or they’ll simply let their family figure it out.

Life insurance can take care of funeral costs, along with financially providing for any dependents you have. Fifty-one percent of respondents have some type of life insurance.

Those that reported not having life insurance had varying reasons for not having it, with only 13% saying they were planning on getting it when they’re older.

 

How to Prepare for Your Own Death

You’re never too young or too old to start making end-of-life plans. Preparing for your own death, whenever that may be, ensures your wishes will be honored and will help your family and friends continue living once you’ve passed. The more you have figured out now, the less you and your loved ones will need to worry about later.

 

Methodology

We surveyed 1,500 people in the United States about their views on end-of-life topics. We asked them about their experiences and thoughts on wills, what end-of-life plans they have, and how they plan to pay for those plans.

Breakdown of respondents:

Age:

  • 18–24 years: 12%
  • 25–34 years: 22%
  • 35–44 years: 20%
  • 45–54 years: 16%
  • 54+ years: 30%

Gender:

  • Female: 57%
  • Male: 43%