Estate Planning for Millennials

Estate planning needs for millennials are different than they are for other age groups. Consider the following estate plan goals to create a customized plan.

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:

Protect an Unmarried Partner

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:

  • Durable financial power of attorney – You might want to name your partner to act as your agent under your durable power of attorney document, which would allow him or her to act on your behalf regarding financial and legal matters. Or, you might want to use your power of attorney to provide instructions for your agent to provide financial support to your partner or to pay joint bills out of your bank account.
  • Medical power of attorneyYou can a power of attorney for health care to name your partner as your health care proxy, patient advocate, or similar role to make medical decisions for you if you can’t make them for yourself. Or, you can make it clear that you want your partner to be able to visit you in a medical facility.
  • Will or trustIf you don’t name your partner as a beneficiary in your will or trust (or you die without one), your partner probably won’t be legally entitled to any of your property.
  • Beneficiary designations. You can name your partner as the beneficiary of your retirement accounts, life insurance, stocks and bonds, pay on death bank accounts, and (in some states) cars. These designations usually override any instructions you’ve left in your will, so make sure to update both when you need to make changes.

Protect Dependents

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.

Address Digital Assets

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.

Provide for Charity

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.

Protect Wealth

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.

Protect a Small Business

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.

Get Help

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.

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