It’s not uncommon to think of a last will and testament as being something that belongs to an elderly person who is in their last years. But actually, there is no specification saying you have to be old or dying to write a will and, in fact, you should consider writing one once you’ve reached adulthood. Anyone older than eighteen can make a will. (Someone who is younger than eighteen can’t form a will that is considered valid unless they meet certain circumstances, such as marriage and court approval).
When making a will, it isn’t about age, it’s about capacity. So, when asking, “How young do you have to be to consider a will?” the answer is eighteen or over, as long as you’re able to understand and approve what you’re doing.
Regarding someone’s mental state, substantive law has a few requirements for those seeking to make a will. An individual who is eighteen or older needs to have what’s called “testamentary capacity.” Testamentary capacity means that the person is of sound (or disposing) mind, memory, and understanding at the time that he or she makes the will.
Someone has testamentary capacity if they (1) understand what a will is, (2) understand, in at least general terms, the type of property and the amount of property that they are disposing, and (3) have the capacity to consider moral claims when deciding who they want to leave their property to.
Lastly, the will’s maker needs to know the contents of their will and approve of them. If the age and capacity requirement is met, you can make a valid will, whether you’re young and off to college or elderly and nearing the end of your life.
Why Young People Need Wills
At eighteen, you might not have much of an estate. However, “not much of an estate” is still an estate, even if there are just a few things in it. You likely have at least some things in your name, whether it’s your car, laptop, clothing, and other personal effects. If something were to happen to you, however unlikely that might seem, you would want to make sure your parents knew what to do with your things. Plus, making your will when you’re young ensures that you’re at your peak capacity to understand. You don’t want to be old and sick before trying to tackle this process.
What a Will Can Include
A will includes instructions for where you want your assets to go after you pass away. An estate plan in general, however, can include much more than that, such as a healthcare directive and power of attorney, both of which are very important. These documents provide instructions on what to do with your finances and health decisions if you’re too sick to make them yourself. Designating your parent (or whoever) as your power of attorney will ensure that your things are taken care of until you’re back on your feet. When you’re creating your will, consider creating those two documents as well. An estate planner will help you through the process.
It might be tempting to go online to a legal document site and create these yourself, but that almost always leads to things being forgotten or left out or minor technicalities arising that could wind up costing your family a lot in court fees to solve. It’s best to consult with a lawyer to make sure it’s done right the first time.
Everyone young thinks they’re going to live forever, and, in almost all cases, they usually have a long time before they’re going to even need to use their estate plan. However, that doesn’t mean that they should neglect to make a will. Even something simple will offer protection in the worst case scenario, and estate planning in general provides protection in a variety of circumstances.