A survey conducted in 2012 found that 41 percent of baby boomers do not have a will. Additionally, the study found that 71 percent of people under the age of 34 do not have a will. A will can be an important document to have because it puts into writing an individual's desires regarding such things as who takes care of minor children or who gets a person's home or car.
It is important to understand that some assets such as a bank account or retirement account may only be passed to designated beneficiaries. These designations are made outside of the estate and most likely won't be part of the will. Wills generally designate who will take care of minor children, who will execute the estate and who will oversee any trusts created.
It is also a good idea to designate someone who has power of attorney. This person will make legal decisions for an individual in the event that he or she is unable to do so. Another person may be given power of attorney over health care matters. When giving someone power of attorney regarding medical needs, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act laws should be taken into account. Unless someone is given express written permission to access medical records, it may not be possible for that person to do so.
Having an organized estate plan may make it easier for everyone to understand the wishes of a person who passes away. Good estate plans reduces the odds that family members will pose legal challenges to the will. They also reduce the odds of an estate being unable to settle bills due to poor record keeping. An estate planning attorney may be able to help draft planning documents and help store them in an organized manner.
Source: Time, "How Writing a Will Is Like Backing Up Your Hard Drive", Lazetta Rainey Braxton , August 18, 2014