Am I Too Young to Write a Will?
With age comes responsibility and new freedoms – but some, understandably, may not feel fully ready to take on the concerns of adulthood. At 13, we can start part-time work; at 16, we can work full-time, leave school, drive a moped, and get married or enter into a civil partnership with parental consent. In fact, at 15 years and 9 months, we can apply for a provisional driving license and join the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force (to serve once 16). Therefore, before the age of 18, when we are legally deemed to be an adult, we are legally capable of making major life-changing decisions. But does this apply to other important decisions including what will happen in the event of our death, or who we would like to make handle our affairs if we unable to? We answer 'What's the Best Age to Write a Will? Or are you too young to write a will?
While many teenagers think no further than the next exam/friendship gathering, there is a growing awareness across the population of the importance of making plans should unforeseen events occur. If you have ever wondered, “am I too young to write a Will?” or “at what age can I nominate a Power of Attorney”, these are the questions we will address in this article, included the limited exceptions which apply in law.
Am I Too Young to Write a Will?
As with many aspects of the law, the answer to this question strictly depends on your circumstances. Section 7 of the Wills Act 1837, states “no Will made by any person under the age of eighteen years shall be valid”; however, there are some very limited exceptions extended to those in the military. Nearly 80 years after the Wills Act was brought into law, at the end of World War 1, the Wills (Soldiers and Sailors) Act 1918 (section 1) was enacted to clarify that “any soldier being in actual military service, or any mariner or seaman being at sea, to dispose of his personal estate as he might have done before the passing of that Act, though under the age of eighteen years”.
Beyond the age criteria defined in the Wills Act, a testator (the person writing the Will) must also be capable of understanding the decisions being made (known as testamentary capacity), and the decisions made must be their own and without coercion.
Am I Too Young to Nominate a Power of Attorney or Am I Too Young to Write a Will?
Under the Power of Attorney Act 1971, a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) allows someone to nominate an individual to make important decisions on their behalf if they are unable to do so; perhaps due to an accident or illness. There are two types – one for health and welfare matters, and one for property and financial affairs. Both LPA’s can be applied for, and if necessary, can nominate the same attorney. Alternatively, an ordinary power of attorney can be nominated to handle financial affairs purely for a temporary period – but not if that person has been diagnosed with (or there is a reason to believe they may develop) a mental health condition which can impair mental capacity.
It is possible to appoint more than one attorney, either jointly (i.e. any decisions made just be jointly agreed), or jointly and severally (i.e. the attorneys may act jointly or independently, as they consider appropriate at the time).
As with a Will, you must be over 18 and have sufficient mental capacity to name a power of attorney. The person being appointed must also be 18 years or older and have sound mental capacity to make the necessary decisions, including writing a will.
So What's The Best Age to Write a Will?
It is true that under current law, only those over 18 years can draw up a Will and/or LPA, but this does not mean that doing so should necessarily be deferred until later in life. Because these documents will ultimately determine what happens to you if you are no longer able to make your own decisions regarding your finances or health, and how your assets and possessions will be handled in the event of your death, in an ideal world, everyone with sufficient mental capacity should have them drawn up at the earliest opportunity. Accident, injury, and disease knows no age, and while the more years you live, the more likely you are to be affected by one or more of these, we can never be sure.
It is entirely understandable that those in the prime of young adulthood have more on their mind than drafting a Will and an LPA, but to do so may represent one of the first truly grown up decisions you can make, and avoid leaving your loved ones with some of life’s most difficult decisions to make on your behalf, so you're never too young to write a will.
Guillaumes LLP Weyrbridge Solicitors is a full-service law firm based in Weybridge, Surrey. We have highly experienced wills and estate planning solicitors and power of attorney solicitors who can assist you with all matters relating to Wills and power of attorney . To make an appointment, please contact us or call us on 01932 840 111