Most people associate drafting a will with the later stages of life. That's for a time when you're married, have a couple kids and a few assets to divide between them. But having a last will and testament is actually pretty important in every stage of life — even when you're living it up in your 20s.
In your 20s, you usually have a lot of freedom to finally live your life as a real adult. Unfortunately, part of adulting is having your estate settled. Of course, no one really wants to think about their own death, especially at a young age. But there are consequences for your possessions and assets if you don't prepare for the unthinkable.
If you unexpectedly die without a will, the laws in your state will dictate what happens to your property. These are called intestate laws. Depending on where you live, your property could go to your spouse, parents, siblings, extended family, or it could even all become property of the state.
...having a valid will gives you much greater control over your estate. You'll be able to leave any of your property to anyone you wish.
Generally, if a married person dies without a valid will, most or all of their property and assets will go to their spouse. If a person is unmarried, the property will pass to a relative. Under the 1990 Uniform Probate Code, eligible relatives include parents, siblings and extended family — including grandchildren, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, and cousins. If a single person dies without any children, the property typically passes to their parents.
This might not seem like too bad of an eventuality, but having a valid will gives you much greater control over your estate. You'll be able to leave any of your property to anyone you wish. Say you're not that close to your parents. You can choose to leave everything to your sibling, cousin, or even to your best friend. If you have strong preferences over how you should be buried, you can also name that in your will. This is especially important if you want to donate your body to science.
Having a will is important, but how do you get a valid one? Across the United States, creating a valid will really isn't that difficult. The main requirements are that you must be at least 18 and of sound mind. You must also be voluntarily making the will. The document has to list all of your property and who will receive each item. And finally, it must be signed, dated and witnessed by two other parties. The two witnesses cannot be beneficiaries in the will.
You don't have to see a lawyer, but it probably is a good idea to run it past one to make sure that the will is legal and valid. Also, requirements can vary from state to state so check up on laws in your area.
Preparing for the unexpected is what being an adult is all about. No one wants to think about dying, but having your paperwork in order can save your family unnecessary pain. Go ahead and have one ready. Just in case.