When do you need to start making a last will or estate plan?

Public education often fails to provide people with important information about the necessities of modern life. Many people don't learn in school about how to file taxes, maintain a house or fulfill their social and interpersonal obligations to their families and loved ones. Financial and legal responsibilities are very rarely part of the curriculum for high schools. That can leave many people unprepared for the demands of the real world.

However, just because no one has told you it's time to create an estate plan or last will doesn't mean that you can continue putting off that important job indefinitely. There is no real rule about when you should begin estate planning. However, there are certain common sense concepts that can help you determine if it is time for you to create a last will.

You have a spouse or children who depend on you

If you have gotten married, had kids or both, you have responsibilities to your family. Failing to create a last will could mean that your estate winds up in probate. That can cause undue expense and stress for your loved ones in the wake of your death. If you have a blended family, the issue may become even more complicated.

Creating a last will, as well as a comprehensive estate plan, is a good way to ensure that the people you love have access to important assets after you die. It also helps them avoid probate court.

You have non-traditional relationships

If you don't have a spouse or children, but have other non-related loved ones, a last will is the only way to protect them. If you die without a will in place, the people who aren't related to you by law or blood will not have any claim to your assets or even be able to stay in the home you share.

You have a good job or a house of your own

If you own significant assets, such as real estate or financial assets, you want to know they will wind up with the people you intend if something happens to you. From real estate to family heirlooms and antiques, your assets may have both financial and emotional value to you and the people you care about.

You are old enough to live independently

If you are still in school or accepting support from your parents, chances are good that you neither have the assets nor the obligations to demand an estate plan. However, once you start living on your own, it may become more apparent that you would benefit from estate planning.

Creating an estate plan doesn't just give you control over your assets and wills. It also lets you create a living will so that people know what to do in the event that you have a serious illness. Comprehensive estate plans protect you in the event of incapacitation.

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