If you’re legally an adult, then it’s time to start thinking about writing a will. You might feel like you’re too young to make arrangements for your eventual passing, but unforeseen circumstances can and do happen, so it’s important to plan for them. Writing a will is especially crucial if you own valuable assets or have children. So, when can you write one, and what should you include in it?
The Right Age to Write Your Will
In most U.S. states, you’ll need to be 18 or older to draft a will. As a teenager, you probably don’t own a house or a business, but it’s likely that you have a car or other valuable possessions. You probably also have things that would be sentimental to your family and friends if you died, like books and clothes.
No matter your age, it’s a good idea to write or update your will when you go through a life change, such as if you get married, have children or buy property. This will ensure that your assets are divided up fairly among your beneficiaries — or donated to charity — in the event of your passing.
A will can also include your digital assets like your social media and email accounts.
What to Include in Your Will
A will is an important component of your overall estate plan, since it outlines what you’d want to happen to your accounts, possessions and children in your absence. It goes into effect after you die. As the person drafting a will, you’re called a testator. Here’s what you should include in your will:
1. Personal Information
To make your will official, it must contain your personal identifying information, including your full name and address. If you have any aliases — such as if you’ve ever changed your name — you should include those as well.
2. Testamentary Intent
To put it simply, the testamentary intent is a statement that declares that this is your will. This makes it clear what kind of document it is.
3. Revocation Clause
The revocation clause states that this is the most current version of your will, and any previous wills you might have written in the past are no longer valid. It ensures that people are carrying out your wishes according to the most recent version of your will.
For example, if you wrote a will when you were married and then later got divorced, you’d include a revocation clause in your new will. That way, your assets wouldn’t go to your ex-spouse when you died.
Who will look after your estate when you die? This person is an executor. You can have one or more executors, but it’s probably best to name just one or two. That way, it will be easier for them to reach an agreement when making decisions about your assets.
5. Assets or Property
This is probably what most people picture when they think of a will. This section details what gifts you’ll leave behind and who will inherit them. This can include things like money, personal belongings, property and more. The people who receive the gifts are called your beneficiaries.
6. Residuary Clause
The residuary clause establishes who will receive an asset — or proceeds from the sale of an asset — if your will doesn't name a beneficiary for it. In other words, you don’t need to earmark every individual item in your house to give to a specific beneficiary. That would be tedious, and your will would end up being the length of a book! The residuary clause covers everything you didn’t name in your will.
If you have children, this section outlines who you’d like to take care of them when you die. It also applies to any disabled or elderly adults in your care. This section is especially important if you don’t have a living spouse who would automatically assume their care in your absence.
To make your will official, you’ll need two witnesses to ensure you’re of sound mind. Their job is to decide if you’re mentally capable of drafting a legal document.
They both need to sign the will. Additionally, you’ll add your own signature to the document.
Putting Your Mind at Ease
Even if you’re still young, it’s a good idea to start thinking about writing a will. Knowing that your children will be cared for, your belongings will go to the right people and all your wishes will be carried out will give you peace of mind.