For many of us, a will is something you don’t need to concern yourself with until you’re older, or at least until you’ve had time to rack up a substantial net worth.
After all, why bother compiling a document detailing the distribution of assets you don’t even have?
The truth is, pretty much everyone past the age of 18 should have a will. And the reasons might surprise you, even if you know a little about estate law. No matter whether you’re young, perfectly healthy, or broke (thanks, law school student loans), now is the time to make a will, and here’s why.
You Can’t Predict the Future
Apologies for starting this one out on a morbid note, but there’s a lot of truth to that old saying about death and taxes. And while it’s likely in your plans to live a long and healthy life, that isn’t in the cards for all of us. So it’s best to be prepared—no matter whether you’re 25 or 85, or have $1 in the bank or $1 million in the bank. Experts suggest it’s not about whether you should have a will, but about when you make the time to make one, and it’s best to make time ASAP.
Yes, traditionally your spouse will inherit whatever you leave behind, but it’s best not to leave that up to chance, especially if you don’t jointly own absolutely everything. A will helps clarify what happens to any assets that might be in your name only. For instance, let’s say you want someone else, like a friend or sibling, to receive something instead of your spouse. You’d need a will to specify that person and what you wish to bequeath them.
You Have Kids
You probably already know this, but it bears restating: If you don’t have a will, a court will use state law to make decisions about what happens to your kids. Your will provides you with a say about who will take care of your children, who will oversee their finances, and even who will be in charge of any property you own that you wish to leave to your children when they’re old enough to manage it.
You Have a Pet
If you were to die unexpectedly, what would happen to Fido? Your will can help dictate a plan for any of your non-human companions in the event that you’re not there to care for them, which is especially important if you’re not married or don’t share ownership of your pets. In addition, your will can even allot for the sale of certain assets to help provide for your pets, so they don’t become a financial hardship on someone else.
You Have, Well, Anything
Even if you’re single and don’t have any children, if you own anything that you might want to have distributed when you die, you should have a will. And this isn’t limited to just savings, stocks, or life insurance policies you have. If you’ve inherited anything (jewelry, heirlooms, art, etc.) that you want to make sure ends up in the right hands, the best way to ensure that it does is with a will.
You’re on Social Media
You want a say in your digital legacy? You need a will. Many of us spend significant amounts of time building up a social media presence, but don’t think much about what will happen when we’re no longer there to manage it. Without a will as a guide, your family can’t be sure what to do with your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or any other sites on which you have accounts.
You Want to Help Your Loved Ones
No one knows more about the benefits of avoiding probate court as much as lawyers do. By clearly laying out your posthumous wishes, you can help your loved ones avoid the lengthy, expensive, and almost always stressful experience of relying on the court to play the role of estate executor. There are countless anecdotes about disagreements tearing families apart when someone dies without carefully laid plans. Help your loved ones avoid the strife with a clear, thorough will.
If you don’t have a will, what are you waiting for? Gather all the information you need about assets and the like, think about who you want to leave what, and get started on the will yourself or make an appointment with an attorney who specializes in estate planning.