Planning Ahead

When Is It OK to Not Have a Will?

by Erik Neilson

It’s no secret that many people find themselves intimidated by the notion of writing a last will and testament. This doesn’t change the fact that the vast majority of individuals will benefit from writing a will, but what if you don’t actually need one? It certainly isn’t the norm, but there are circumstances in which having a will is far less of a necessity than it is for others. Understanding whether or not you fall into this category can be very beneficial, even if there’s a fair amount of gray area to consider. 

Here are a few scenarios in which a will might not do you any favors. 

1. You’re Under 18 Years of Age

The clearest, most obvious way to determine whether or not you need a will may come down to your age. In most states, people need to be at least 18 years of age in order to legally complete a will. Regardless of this law, the vast majority of those under the age of 18 don’t have any assets to leave behind in the case of an early passing—financial or otherwise. While it’s extremely wise to consider writing a will early on in life, those who are under 18 can file the task away as a future endeavor. 

2. You’re Single With No Children, Assets or Debt

Once one becomes of legal age to write a will, things start to get a bit tricky. The fact is, just about everyone who is over 18 years of age should have a will in place as early in life as possible. This becomes especially important for those who have significant assets to deal with in the case of their passing, however. On the other end of the spectrum, those with children, existing debt or both also owe it to themselves to create a will that will address these circumstances should unexpected events occur. 

But what about someone who is single, has no children, is debt-free and has little in the way of assets to speak of? While they should also technically have a will written for themselves, the fact that there is little to give or take in the case of their passing makes the whole process seem slightly unnecessary. Still, circumstances can always change, which is why this is not a fact of life for most people.

Though you may not have assets or debts to handle, you might still want a say in the disposition of your remains. We know, not a cheery subject, but there are actually some really cool options available these days, so it’s worth considering.

3. You Have a Mental Disability 

In order to create a will, the law requires what is known as Testamentary Capacity. Basically, you must be of sound mind and mental judgment or the will you created could be contested and potentially declared invalid. If you have a mental illness that would prevent you from executing a valid will (something you would need to discuss with a psychologist and an attorney), that definitely limits your options. While someone with a mental disability may still need a will, it would need to be done in conjunction with a person of sound mind and judgment who has been granted power of attorney for the disabled individual.

While there could certainly be other scenarios, these 3 are the ones most likely to arise in which you don’t strictly have to have a will. Bottom line: if you have a family, have debts and/or anything you want to leave to someone, or want a say in how you’re buried/cremated, then you need a will.

And, remember, Tomorrow is not a law firm, this blog was not written by a lawyer, and we do not provide legal advice. When in doubt, talk to a licensed attorney in your area.