Age Concerns When Making a Will

By Cindy Hill

Calling for an attorney from your deathbed as you near the centenary mark may be a classic movie scene, but it is not often the reality in today's money and business savvy world. Most people will make several wills in their lifetime, reflecting their changing status in life from students to parents to retirees. Age concerns when making a will can direct you to draft terms that best reflect your current estate needs.

College Age

You are likely to own few substantial assets in your 20s, but there are still plenty of reasons to make a will, advises attorney Julie Evans writing at the University of Tulsa School of Business. Many college-age individuals are parents, and making a will allows young parents to acquire the peace of mind of appointing a guardian of their choosing for the child. Not all young people are devoid of assets, as well. Trusts and inheritances frequently vest at age 21, leaving some college students with significant estates of their own. Young people are also more likely than their elders to be injured in a work accident or in the armed forces, and may consider adopting a living will or durable health care power of attorney along with making a will.

Middle Age

In your 40s and 50s, your spouse and children are likely to be a primarily concern in making a will. If you are divorced, you may also have concerns about ensuring that children of your first relationship receive an inheritance even if you remarry or have additional children. You may also be balancing your estate planning concerns with the need to pay off a mortgage, college tuition for your kids, or other bills. As your children reach adulthood, the need to arrange for guardians or establish trusts in your will may be eliminated.

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Retirement Age

As you reach retirement age, you may be faced with mounting health care costs of your own, as well as the costs of care for aging parents. One common concern in drafting a will at this age is planning for a pending inheritance and determining how it can best be managed during your life and then distributed in a will to your children or grandchildren. Another concern of the retirement years is attempting to determine which resources should be gifted away during your lifetime, and which should be held for distribution in your estate. Estate tax concerns arise as inherited assets, retirement funds, and the fruition of any investment or business ventures all coalesce in the same time period.

Later Years

Maintaining personal autonomy is of primary concern to our elders, writes attorney A. Kathleen Tomlinson in the Pace Law Review. As control over health and daily activities diminishes, elderly individuals may seek to retain greater autonomy over their personal property, including determining who will inherit individual items through their estate. However, long-term health care needs may take a substantial bite out of an elder's assets. Family concerns regarding an aging relative's physical well-being or mental acuity may create pressure and confusion about management of present assets, as well as the terms to include in a will. Balancing respect for elders' dignity and independence with concern for their well-being can create tension between family members when a relative of advanced age or infirmity sets about making a will.

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Cost of Making a Will

Thousands of people pass away each year without leaving behind any formal instructions for administration of their estates. This is likely due, at least in part, to the misconception that making a will is a prohibitive expense. In reality, the cost of establishing a will is almost always directly tied to the size of your estate. Most testators with simple estates and nominal net worth can expect to pay as little as $100 for retaining an attorney to make a will, and even less to draft a will themselves. The higher your estate’s net worth, the more you can expect to pay for creating a will.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Doing Wills Online

You can privately prepare your will online through a will preparation website, but whether or not online will drafting is right for you depends on your financial and personal circumstances. An attorney may be needed to prepare your will and review the document for accuracy and compliance with your state's legal standards, especially if you are providing for the guardianship of minor children.

Guardian Vs. Custodian of a Minor Child in a Will

A guardian and custodian become necessary in the event a child's parents pass away, leaving assets and an inheritance behind. Minor children cannot inherit money or assets outright, so a custodian is named or appointed to manage the assets until the child reaches an appropriate age. A guardian, in contrast, is responsible for overseeing the child's day-to-day physical and financial well-being. These positions may be named in a parent's will or appointed by the court.

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