If you’re a Millennial—born between 1982 and 2000—your estate planning needs may differ from the generation before you. Talk to an estate planning attorney or prepare your own documents to get your affairs in order.
Here are some typical planning goals for Millennials:
Many Millennials are either putting off marriage or not marrying at all. However, they may still be involved in committed romantic relationships and want to protect that important person. Legally, marriage creates default rules that gives a spouse automatic rights, such as allowing a spouse to make medical decisions when the other spouse can’t. Unmarried partners may not have any rights if disaster strikes.
To protect their partners, Millennials can name their partners to serve in important legal roles or otherwise provide for them in their estate planning documents. For example:
If other people rely on you, you can use your estate plan to protect them after your death.
You can use a will to designate what happens to your property when you die. If you’re married, you may assume that your spouse will get everything, so why bother? However, many state laws only provide that a spouse receive a portion of your estate – usually between one-third and one-half – if you don’t have children. The rest may go to your parents or siblings.
If you have children, you can name a personal guardian who would care for your children if you die while they are still minors. And you can name a financial guardian to handle their finances until they become legal adults. Also, you can provide for the care of a pet in your will.
You can also use a trust to create more detailed instructions about how you want your property to be managed after your death. Your trust can provide for distributions of trust funds to your spouse, unmarried partner, children, pets or others. It can also include instructions on managing real estate, collectibles, vehicles or other property.
Millennials grew up as digital natives. Many Millennials have amassed a great number of digital assets, which include content on social media accounts, apps, electronically-stored data, airline points, loyalty programs, financial accounts, photos and videos. Planning for digital assets is an evolving area of the law. Some people have completely separate digital asset plans while others incorporate instructions regarding their digital assets into their other estate planning documents. Millennials might designate a “digital executor” to manage these accounts and provide instructions about what to do with them. For example to memorialize a Facebook account, delete embarrassing photos, or to take over the management of a blog. Prepare a detailed list of your accounts, user names, and passwords so that a person you trust or your executor to gain access to these accounts. You can store this information and important estate planning documents on online document storage companies like thedocsafe.com or zokuvault.com.
Many Millennials are driven by social causes. They often base their consumer decisions on how much a business gives back or they donate to charities that match their values. Millennials can include specific gifts in their will or trust.
Some Millennials have accumulated substantial wealth through success in the tech, lucrative careers, or by receiving an inheritance from their parents or grandparents. An effective estate plan can designate how the millennial’s property should be treated if the millennial becomes incapacitated or after he or she passes away. It can designate that funds go to a favorite niece or nephew, be invested in a certain way or be set up in a trust based on specific instructions.
Many Millennials have started their own businesses or work in family businesses. An estate plan can designate what happens to a small business after the owner passes away or becomes incapacitated if a buy-sell agreement is not in place. Including instructions about your business can help it retain its value and provide certainty for customers and employees.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that estate planning is only for older generations. Preparing important documents like a power of attorney, will, and trust can help provide your loved ones with clarity if something happens to you. If you want help understanding how these issues affect you, speak with a local estate planning attorney.