Generally, it is a good idea for every adult to have a will. None of us will live forever, and unexpected accidents happen all the time. Although you may think you have nothing to pass on, the amount of money you have now may not be as relevant as it seems. Depending on how you die, your estate could be awarded money in a lawsuit over the cause of your death. If you have no will, you have no say where any of your assets go.
However, a will can do more than determine who gets what, and many of the general reasons for having a will are just as valid for young people as they are for older ones, including:
- Minimizing estate taxes
- Shortening the probate process
- Naming someone you trust to manage your final affairs
The trouble with dying intestate
However, as a young person, it can be especially important to have a will if you are unmarried to your significant other or if you have kids. If you die without a will, which is called dying intestate, Pennsylvania's intestate succession laws will determine who will inherit from your estate. Based on these laws, your significant other will likely inherit nothing, unless you state differently in a valid will.
If you have kids and die intestate, a judge will be the one to decide who becomes your children's guardian. Although the judge will consider what is in the best interest of your children, he or she may not prioritize the same factors you do. You can prevent this by using your will to designate a guardian for your children.
Dying intestate could have other unintended consequences as well. For example, estranged family members could stand to inherit a cut of your estate, leaving less for the people who really matter to you. Alternatively, the division of your assets based on intestate succession laws could spark disagreements among your loved ones, leading to expensive and time-consuming litigation. A will allows you to clarify your wishes and potentially avoid squabbles among your heirs.
In Pennsylvania, you must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind to make a valid will. You should also plan to update your will throughout your life. While you can get into a routine of reviewing your will annually, you should be especially careful to update your will every time you have a major life event, such as the birth of a child, a divorce, the death of a loved one or a significant change in assets.
Deciding when to draw up a will is a personal decision. However, it can be a good way to protect your loved ones by ensuring your wishes are carried out after your death. After all, tomorrow is never promised.