Your bank account balance just covers your monthly bills, and you don’t think the contents of your closet is exactly an asset. So, if you don’t have any dependents, own property, or have substantive savings, do you need a will? The short answer is yes.
“Making a will is one of the wisest and potentially most important decision you’ll make,” notes Brian A. Raphan, an attorney in Manhattan.
For one, having a will clears a lot of red tape for your friends and family. For another, it doesn't even have to take that long. Fabric's researchers found that more than 75 percent of customers created a will online in under ten minutes.
Here’s what to know about writing a will and why it’s so important to have one at any stage of your life.
This is one of the top reasons people think they don't need a will, but it doesn't usually hold water. You may look at your bank account balance and think you’re broke, but if you break down your assets, you likely have some items of value—even if they’re only sentimental value. For example, you may have your engagement ring, a piece of furniture passed down through your family, or even photo albums, artwork, or collectibles that are a cherished part of your history or the history of your family.
It’s also smart to take stock of your larger financial picture: Do you have savings? These should be mentioned in your will. What about your car? Even if you’re paying off the balance, you can still name the car in the will (the balance would then be transferred to the new owner, so they could either take over payments or sell the car). You may find yourself surprised by how much you have once you start taking inventory.
You may find yourself surprised by how much you have once you start taking inventory.
Do you have a charity or organization you love? Naming one is a great way to make a difference, even if the worst were to happen. A will is also one last chance to “talk” to your loved ones and share what they mean to you.
Even if you don’t think you have much, naming your brother or sister the owner of your collection of photographs or your office work wife the owner of your laptop is a way to show how much you care about them, even if you’re not there to tell them in person.
Plus, importantly, this is an opportunity to have a conversation with your loved ones about who should care for your children if you were to pass away. Once you've reached a conclusion, you can write your instructions in your will.
In some cases, you might also choose to create a trust to make sure that your assets are passed down in the exact way you wish. For example, maybe you want your children to wait until a certain age before they have full access to the money you've left behind.
If you don’t designate who gets what, things will be divided according to the laws of your state. No spouse or children? In New York, for example, that means all your belongings would go to your parents—not ideal if you don’t get along or if you would prefer your estate to go to a partner who is not a legal spouse, says Raphan.
If you die without a will, the entire contents of your estate follows your state’s law. But that can create tension or drama between families, especially if you die without any close family, where your estate may then be handled by a Public Administrator. If things come to that, family may have to “prove” they are related to you by appearing in court and producing their birth certificate.
(Full disclosure: Lots of people as us how to make a will for free because they assume that this process is complicated and expensive. That's why Fabric lets you write a will online for free.)
Reluctant to create a will because you’re worried your loved ones will be saddled with consumer debt? Most debt does not get passed on to your next of kin. That means you don’t have to worry about the person you name as executor also being held responsible for your credit card bills. That's the person who will make sure all your wishes in your will are carried out and all your financial matters are settled. Bills will be paid from the assets you have, but if they don’t cover the total of your debt, the debts are usually forgiven.
While you can’t guarantee a will is going be read before a funeral, it can be a good place to put some requests on how you would like people to remember you. These thoughts aren’t binding, but they can help point your family and friends in the right direction for final arrangements, which is so helpful when they may be grieving.
It’s also important to ensure that your will is legally binding, which is why creating one from a template is infinitely better than scribbling your wishes down in your journal. And a legally-binding will doesn’t need to be pricey.
At Fabric, you can complete your own free, personalized, legally-binding will and keep record of your final arrangements in one convenient place when you create your Fabric Will Kit.
It’s also important to revisit your will every year or two, or whenever you undergo a major life change, such as getting married or committing to a serious relationship or buying property.
Regardless of what your will says and how you divvy up your property, it’s essential that your loved ones know you have a will, and where to find it.
Regardless of what your will says and how you divvy up your property, it’s essential that your loved ones know you have a will, and where to find it. Fabric can help give support in starting these conversations. While they may be initially uncomfortable, making sure everyone is on the same page can deliver invaluable peace of mind.
Fabric exists to help young families master their money. Our articles abide by strict editorial standards.
This article is meant to provide general information and not to provide any specific legal advice or to serve as the basis for any decisions.
Fabric isn’t a law firm and we aren’t licensed to practice law or to provide any legal advice. If you do need legal advice for your specific situation, you should consult with a licensed attorney and/or tax professional.
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