When Should I Make A Will

Young family needs a will

When should I make a will?

Obviously, no one wants to think about his or her own death, let alone prepare for it. However, it’s important to understand that writing a will doesn’t mean you’re planning to die any time soon. In fact, it could take months or even years before you actually pass away. So, when should I make a will? Well, it’s not just because you might get hit by a bus tomorrow. Writing a will and other estate planning documents, and doing some other basic estate planning also gives you peace of mind knowing that your affairs are taken care of after you’ve gone. In its simplest form, a will is a legal document of instructions for the distribution of assets when you die. Plus, having a will means you won’t leave behind any unpleasant surprises for your loved ones. A will also saves your family unnecessary hassle, time and expense of the probate process.

Major life events in most peoples’ lives are when it makes sense either to make or update a will.


So, here’s when I should make a will.


1. Turning 18.

As a matter of fact, in most states in America, this is your first legal opportunity to write a legally valid will. So by all means, take advantage of it.

2. When you have accumulated some money or other assets.

If you don’t have any money such as bank accounts or assets such as a home or valuable personal property, then you really don’t need a will. But, if you have saved some money and care what happens to it when you die, then it may indeed be time to think about writing a will, For some, even as little as $500 in savings may be enough for you to want to direct what happens to it? What about $5,000? What about your car? The larger point is that if you die without a basic will, you’ll be what’s termed “intestate.” Then, your estate will be settled in accordance with your state’s laws about who inherits what. 

3. When you get married (or divorced or remarried).

Changes in your most important relationship are a key reason to make or revise your will. Did you get married, remarried, or divorced? Or, maybe you are not married but cohabitating. If you want your partner to be one of your beneficiaries, does that change if they’re no longer married to you? Or, maybe you want to keep them but switch what’s left to them?

4. When you have children (and again when they become adults).

A will guarantees your children are provided for exactly as you want them to be. Most importantly, and this is often overlooked by parents, a will also names a guardian for your minor children if both parents die before they reach adulthood. The way you plan for your children in your will is going to change when they become adults. That’s a good time to update your will accordingly. You may also want to name one of them as your executor.

5. After you start a business.

Think about who would get your business when you die.  Do you want to leave the company to your children or envision someone taking over the business? What if you want to leave the business to one child but not the other, how will treat the other child to balance things out? 

6. Buying a home.

Buying a home or other real property will significantly alter the value of your property and could affect who you decide to name as your beneficiary as well as how much money you leave them. You might want to consider making some changes to your will if you’re planning to buy a house. If you move to a different state, you will want a new will that complies with the laws of that state.

7. It’s been a while.

You should review or revise your will at least once every four or five years, depending on your situation. There are many factors that can affect how you decide to distribute your assets after death. Changes in personal priorities, family relations, and even the law. If health issues affect your plans, they may force you to rethink them. For instance, if a family member starts suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, you might need to consider how he or she will best be cared for.

Write a Short Clear and Concise Document.

You should write a short, clear, and concise document describing how you’d like your estate to be divided among your heirs. Include details such as where your assets are located, and if you’ve given any money or goods to anyone else. Be sure to include your spouse, children, and relatives on your beneficiary lists. Update these lists whenever someone passes away or changes his or her last name.

When to Create a Trust

If you have more assets, including property or other investments, it may be a good idea to consider a trust. Trusts give you more control over how your assets will be distributed while you’re still living and after death, and can help you avoid probate. Additionally, creating a trust can give you control over how your assets are used after death.


Are you young, broke, single, and don’t have kids?

Well, maybe you don’t need a will just yet. Your will directs the distribution of assets and if you don’t have many assets to distribute then you may be okay without a will. For example, my friend Stephanie is single, doesn’t have kids, is 28 years old, and has a lot of student loan debt. Stephanie really doesn’t need a will yet because she doesn’t have dependents and she doesn’t have assets.

Do You Need an Estate Planning Attorney or Can You Do a Will Online?

There are several ways to create a will online but it isn’t always the best choice. Some websites offer free wills, others charge a fee. The most popular way to create a will is through a website called LegalZoom.com. They provide a sample will that you can customize to fit your needs. An estate planning attorney will evaluate your needs and then recommend exactly the right type of will or other estate planning document that is best for you.



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Todd Murphy

Todd Murphy is an estate planning lawyer in Morristown New Jersey where he helps modern families of all ages plan for the future.

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