Why Do I Need a Will?

Highlights
  • Even with limited assets, you still need a will to direct who gets what instead of allowing the government to decide.
  • If you're single and don't have a will, your parents may inherit your property instead of your brothers, sisters or nieces and nephews.
  • After you have children, it's important to choose who will take care of them if you die unexpectedly, otherwise a judge will make the decision.
  • If you're married and without a will, your spouse may only inherit part of your estate and your children, parents or other family members will get the rest.

Maybe you’re single, in your 20s, healthy and just starting out in your career. Or, you’re married, in your 30s or 40s, healthy, have kids, a house, some money in the bank and a 401(k). In both cases, you probably don’t think you need a will since your situation is “simple.” Don’t be fooled. Regardless of your age, health, family and wealth, you still need one.

So, you ask, “Why do I need a will?” Anyone at any age can be involved in an accident or become seriously ill. That’s why it’s important to make a will regardless of your family situation or financial status. You just never know what will happen when you walk out the door each morning.

What happens if I don’t make a will?

If you don’t make a will, the laws of the state you live in at the time of your death make one for you. Oftentimes, the will the government provides isn’t what you would’ve chosen had you taken the time to make your own.

Why do I need a will if I’m only in my 20s?

Even if you’re in your 20s and single, you’ve certainly accumulated some valuables, such as jewelry, clothes, furniture, computers, tablets and cell phones. You probably have a few dollars in the bank and may own a car and a pet or two. In your will, you can list who gets your property and who you want to take care of your pets, otherwise, the government will make these decisions for you.

Why do I need a will if I’m only in my 30s or 40s?

As you reach your 30s and 40s, a will becomes a necessity. You may be married with young kids, starting to put away some money for your kids and retirement, own a home and maybe even a business. It’s important to specify in your will how much of your property you want each of your loved ones to receive since, without a will, the laws of many states will divide your property between your spouse and other family members (children, parents and siblings) in a way that may not be in accordance with your wishes.

In addition, if something were to happen to both you and your spouse, you can list in your will who’s responsible for taking care of your kids and managing their inheritance until they become adults. You can also choose who will take over your business. Without a will, a judge will make these decisions.

Why do I need a will if I’m in my 50s or older?

If you’re in your 50s or older and have gotten by this far without a will, now is the time to put making a will at the top of your “to-do” list. Without a will, it’s possible your spouse will only inherit a portion of your estate and your children or other family members will get the rest. If you’re in a second or later marriage and you and your spouse have your own kids, this could create a disaster. For instance, without a will, state law may decide that your spouse inherits 50 percent of your home and your kids will inherit the rest. If this is the case, consider the following:

  • Who pays the expenses, upkeep, taxes and insurance while your spouse is living there?
  • While your spouse is living there, do they have to pay rent to your kids?
  • What happens if your spouse wants to the sell the home, but your kids want to keep it, or vice versa?
  • What happens if the home is destroyed by a fire, earthquake or hurricane?

In your will, you can leave your spouse your entire estate regardless of what state law says. On the other hand, be careful if you want to disinherit your spouse because most states require a certain portion to go to your spouse regardless of what your will says.