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5 Reasons You Need a Will at Any Age
A will is a legal document that only takes effect after death. So, why you should you bother thinking about wills or trusts at age 25? How about 35? We’ve got five good reasons to consider making a will no matter what your age.
At a certain age, it’s natural to start thinking about making a will. But what if you’re twentysomething and single with no kids? The truth is that there is no hard and fast rule for when you should have a will or trust — and there are several things to consider beyond money.
We’ll begin with some of the more familiar and common situations and work our way up to unique challenges you may not have considered. Here are five of the top reasons to make a will at any age:
1. You have a positive net worth.
If you have assets to distribute, you’ll likely want to make a will. But before you start planning out who will get what, remember to also figure in any liabilities you owe. When someone dies, creditors can collect on their debts from the estate prior to the distribution of assets (an exception is federal student loans discharged after death).
That’s why you’ll want to look at your net worth, rather than just your assets, when making a will. Your net worth is the value of all your assets (car, home, bank accounts, investments, jewelry and art, etc.) minus your debts (mortgage, auto and student loans, credit card balances, etc.). If you’re in the red, focus on spending less and paying down your debt. If you have a positive net worth — especially if its value exceeds $100,000 — you may want to create a will to choose how those assets will be distributed.
2. You have children or other dependents.
Unlike a trust, which focuses on monetary assets, a will can include information on legal guardianship of dependents. If you have minor children or plan to start a family, this is something that should be top of mind. By naming a legal guardian for your child(ren) in your will, you can rest easy knowing that they would be in good hands if the unexpected happens. Note that your choice of guardian may not be automatically approved by the courts. You may be required to explain your decision, especially if you do not want your child(ren) to be cared for by a surviving parent.
What if you haven’t started a family yet? “If you do not have children, it is still imperative to create an estate plan,” says Desert Financial Wills & Trust Supervisor Matt Osborn. “You might want to leave a legacy to nieces and nephews or name a charitable organization to receive your estate.”
3. You worry about family members fighting over inheritances.
If you pass without a will, aka “intestate,” the laws of your state will determine how your new assets are divided. This could cause infighting among relatives, especially if you have close relations or friends who feel that they would be entitled to a larger portion of your estate than your estranged brother or a second cousin you’ve never met. You could also end up with relatives fighting over family heirlooms or items of sentimental value.
While you may not be able to avoid arguments altogether, a specific and detailed will goes a long way to tame small squabbles. If fighting is a serious concern, consider designating a family friend or neutral third party as executor to oversee the distribution of your assets.
4. You don’t want someone to have a say/share.
In some cases, you may choose to make a will to avoid including a certain individual as a beneficiary or decision-maker. Perhaps you don’t trust your closest living relative to honor your last wishes, or you want to exclude an estranged child from being a beneficiary.
So, do you need a will if you don’t have children or heirs? Unless you want your assets to go to the state, yes! Making a legal will is the best way to ensure that your requests are respected after your passing — even if you’d like your entire estate to go to charity.
Note that a traditional will does not include instructions on what to do if you are physically or mentally incapacitated and unable to make medical decisions for yourself; for that, you’ll need to prepare an advance healthcare directive or living will.
5. Things can change at any moment.
One of the most important reasons to make a will is that you never know what will happen in the future. Tomorrow is never promised, and without a will, you’ll have no say in what happens if your tomorrow doesn’t come. A will provides a secure, legal plan for what happens to your family and your assets should the unexpected happen. You can update, change or cancel your will at any time.
According to Wills & Trusts Supervisor Matt Osborn, you’ll need additional protections in place to provide for your care before death. “As soon as you turn 18, it is important to create powers of attorney. Should you become incapacitated in an accident, having these documents in place will help your family make important decisions for you,” he says.
Do I Really Need a Will?
You may think you’re too young for a will, but there’s no such thing! Adults of any age are encouraged to take advantage of our no-obligation, free estate planning consultation with a Wills & Trusts advisor. You don’t need to be wealthy or a parent to need a will.
Having a plan in place for the future gives you peace of mind — no matter how old you are or what stage of life you’re in. “With a little planning, you can leave your family with a smoother transition so they can carry out your wishes,” says Osborn. “It is a final gift you can give your loved ones.”
Document preparation services are offered through Desert Financial Credit Union; an Arizona Supreme Court Certified Legal Document Preparation Business Entity (CLDP #81024). Legal document preparation services are not insured by the NCUA and have no credit union guarantee.