Do I need a will if I own almost nothing?

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Question:

I'm a 30-year-old single woman and I don't have much to my name. I live in a rented apartment and have some meager savings. I have no children. Do I need to write a will?

Answer:

If we were living 150 years ago, by now you would have not only written a will, but chosen a carved tombstone (preferably with an angel on top) and had your portrait done in miniature so that your mourners could wear it around their necks.

Now that fewer of us are going around with consumptive coughs, however, people tend not to think about the prospect of an early demise -- and many go without a will. You too can choose that route, if you're happy with having your state's law dictate where your possessions would go. Most state laws give everything to the dearly departed's parents or other close relatives.

If, however, you want your pet iguana and your snow globe collection to go to someone other than mom and dad, writing a will might be a good idea. Also think about the items you hoped mom and dad would never see -- those journals from when you were 14 years old, for example. And even your little pot of savings might make a nice gift to a close friend or charity.

Also, in your will, you can designate who will be your executor, the person with authority to make sure that all your possessions end up in the right hands.

If you decide not to write a will now, be sure to revisit the issue as your circumstances evolve. If you have children, accumulate more property, develop health problems, or just reach a later stage in life, your estate planning needs will change. If you think it might be time to make your will, start by reading The Simple Will: No Frills, No Fuss, No Anxiety.

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