Wills and Young Adults
UPDATED: June 19, 2018
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Many young adults avoid writing a will because they believe they are not old enough or wealthy enough to need one. However, life, especially for young adults, can take unexpected turns, so it is crucial to have a will regardless of age or finances. If you die without a will, the distribution of your property, no matter how meager, will be decided by a probate court according to your state’s laws, and the final outcome may not be what you intended. Such involvement by the courts almost invariably costs your friends and family considerable time and money.
Taking Control of Your Property
A will is an important milestone in becoming a responsible adult because it allows you to control what happens to your property, whether a house, a savings account, or a CD collection, a will designates care for dependents, and protects loved ones from legal hassles or uncertainty in dealing with your belongings. In addition, being relatively young, in and of itself, is a good reason to have a will. One of the very first questions financial planners ask young clients is “Do you have a will?” A will is not meant to be simply a headstone, but a financial building block to a long and productive life.
The first steps in writing a will are to make a detailed list of all your possessions, which could include bank accounts, electronics, or a car, and determine the beneficiaries of these assets. Beneficiaries are the individuals or organizations that you want to receive your property. Next, if you have children or pets, think about who you would like to take care of them and name those people as guardians. You should also name alternative beneficiaries and guardians in the event that something happens to those you initially chose, rendering them incapable of taking possession of the property you left them or acting as a guardian. In addition, you must decide who will be executor of your will. This is the person who will protect your property and ensure that all matters are handled as instructed by the will.
Drafting Your Will
Once you have an idea of the contents of your will, you can draft it yourself, or have a qualified attorney prepare it for you. If you decide to write the will on your own, you may want to have an attorney review it because there are many laws governing wills. For example, generally, a will must be in writing, it must state that you intend for it to be the final authority on the distribution of your property, you must sign and date it along with two witnesses who have no interest in the will, and you must be at least 18 years old and mentally competent. Moreover, laws vary by state, making it helpful to have a lawyer assist you by confirming that your will is legally valid and accurately reflects your intentions. Nevertheless, most young adults who are single, childless, and without significant assets can probably get by with a simple will created online or by inexpensive computer software.
Remember to Update Your Will
After your will is completed, it is necessary to update it when changes in your life occur, such as inheriting property, getting married (or divorced), or having a new baby. You can amend the will, which is known as a codicil, or you can draft a new one. Whether you use a codicil or write a new will, work with an attorney when revising your will to make certain that the changes adhere to all applicable laws and prevent confusion. Then, be sure to let people affected by your will know that you have made one and where it is stored.
Writing a will may seem to be an unnecessary task given your age or lack of significant assets, but it should not be ignored. Having a proper will in place provides you with peace of mind, knowing that if the unthinkable happens, you have taken care of the people and things that are most important to you.