Millennials – those defined by the U.S. Census Bureau as born between 1982 and 2000 - have very specific estate planning needs. Their needs may differ drastically from the generation before them. Talk to an estate planning attorney or prepare your own documents to get your affairs in order.
Some of the goals of a millennial’s estate plan may be:
Younger people are deciding not to marry until later – or not to marry at all. However, they may be involved in committed romantic relationships and want to protect this important person in their life. Marriage often creates default rules that gives a spouse automatic rights, such as allowing a spouse to make medical decisions when the other spouse can’t unless there’s a document saying otherwise. However, unmarried partners may not have any rights if disaster strikes.
Millennials can name their partner to serve in an important legal role or otherwise provide for them in their estate planning documents, such as:
Other people may rely on millennials for support. A will can 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, estranged brother or distant cousin Jerry.
If you have children, you can name a guardian who would care for your child if you die while your child is still a minor and a conservator to handle your child’s finances until they become a legal adult. 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, such as instructing her to memorialize a Facebook account, delete embarrassing photos or manage a blog after their death. Prepare a detailed list of your accounts, user names and passwords to 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 more wealth than in previous generations due to success in the digital world, 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 the elderly. Preparing important documents like a power of attorney, will, and trust can help provide your loved ones with clarity if something happens to you. Talk to a local estate planning attorney or prepare the documents discussed above to protect your interests.