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Generational changes heighten the importance of making a will

Every generation has unique characteristics and values. Even though ideals might shift from generation to generation, many laws might remain static.

Interestingly enough, estate planning law often deals directly with passing assets and property from one generation to another. This idea is reflected in intestate succession laws, which provide a framework for next of kin to be named beneficiaries of an estate if a person passes away without a will. Despite these laws, some people may want all or a portion of their assets provided to charitable causes, rather than exclusively to blood relatives.

Some observers have indicated that generational and family shifts have spilled over into the arena of estate planning. The chair of the board for the Association of Fundraising Professionals indicates that baby boomers often had smaller families than previous generations -- or no children at all. As such, people may reconsider having their children or relatives named as exclusive beneficiaries of assets and property.

Many people have charitable causes that are very important to them. Without creating a will, it's unlikely that assets or property will be directed to those efforts. By taking the time to create an estate plan, a person can allow assets to continue to work for important causes after his or her passing.

Despite the fact that many people might understand the importance of writing a will, a large share of American adults have yet to take action. A major survey, the Health and Retirement Study, shows that the younger a person is the less likely he or she is are to have an enforceable will in place. Knowing this, many people in the baby-boom generation who might identify with the concerns mentioned above don't have a plan in place to address their wishes.

Source: New York Times, "In Estate Planning, Family Isn't Always First," Caitlin Kelly, May 2, 2014

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