How old should you be when you get a will?

No matter how old you are, people 18 years and older should have a living will. Death isn’t something you spend much time thinking about in your late teens and twenties. But, the fact is that accidents and terminal illnesses can occur at any age, and you need to have legal documents that make your wishes known to your family. Having a will is family protection — saving your loved ones from having to make very difficult decisions concerning end-of-life care and asset distribution after your death.

In most states you must be 18 or older to write a legally valid will. Even if you don’t have a lot of assets, you create a will to designate how you want them to be distributed after your death. Your assets may include savings, a car, collectibles — even digital assets such as passwords to social media accounts, blogs, and others. You may have a favorite charity that you would like to name as a beneficiary.

You will also want to create a living will or advance directive, a document in which you state your wishes for end-of-life medical care in the event that you’re no longer able to communicate these wishes to your family or physician. In a living will you can appoint a family member or friend to be a healthcare proxy, someone who can legally make decisions on your behalf if and when you’re no longer able to do so.

18 isn’t too young

You may think that getting a will at 18 is something you don’t need to worry about, but there are some very valid reasons that you should. You may have some money in savings that you earned from a job or you may have inherited money from a family member. You may own a pet that is going to need continued care. It’s important to legally designate where you want these possessions to go upon your death.

What happens to these assets after marriage or when you have kids of your own? If you become a single parent as a teenager or in your early twenties? You need to provide instructions for the care and raising of your child should something happen to you.

It’s never too late to complete a last will and testament or to create an advance directive to provide for the well-being of you family and loved ones.

65 isn’t too old

Surprisingly, many seniors over the age of 65 don’t have a living will. Just as important as having a will when you’re 18 is protecting your assets for you and your family as you approach retirement age. Perhaps you’re still helping your children or grandchildren with college expenses or are a caregiver and guardian for a disabled individual. You may still be in good health, but unexpected illness could strike anytime, so you need to make sure that your wishes are known and your family and loved ones are protected.

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