Do I Need a Will If I Own Almost Nothing?

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:

Many people don't think about the prospect of an early demise, so they don't make a will. You too can choose that route—if you're happy with your state's intestate succession laws dictating where your possessions will go. If a person has no spouse or children and dies without a will, most state laws give everything to the deceased person's parents—or other close relatives if there are no living parents.

If, however, you want your pet iguana and your snow globe collection to go to someone other than your parents, writing a will is 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 a charity.

A will also can prevent hurt feelings or fights between friends and family members. For instance, your best friend might have a special connection with your pet iguana and will be upset if your parents decide to keep it. Or you might have two siblings who both want your vinyl record collection. If your will says who gets your records, they won't be left to decide—or argue about—who gets which records.

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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