Millennials Need Estate Planning, Too

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By Shari B. Cohen, Esq.

Millennials, those born between 1980 and 2000, may be good at money management but they are not generally good at estate planning. I have observed a trend among twenty- and thirty-year-olds of “living together” until they decide whether to marry, and they may not think about who would get what if they split up or who would maintain the apartment if one left.

Many Millennials do not think about who would make decisions for them if they become incapacitated or who would handle their affairs if they were to pass away. Estate planning is farthest from their minds because they are young and may feel immortal. However, as Benjamin Franklin said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Millennials who are single should have a Durable Power of Attorney, a Health Care Surrogate, and a Living Will, at a minimum. They should nominate their parents or siblings as their agent to make financial and health care decisions for them. Once married or with a partner, they can update their documents to nominate their spouse or partner.

After they are married and/or have a baby or buy their first home, they should create a Last Will and Testament, nominate a preneed guardian, and create a Revocable Living Trust. These documents may assist in avoiding guardianship and probate.

Millennials tend to have a lot of online accounts. Each Millennial probably has at least 10 or more digital assets. Some own their own web sites or Internet domain names. Although Millennials often put their lives out in public for the world to see on social media, they would not want people to have access to their passwords. A confidential inventory of digital assets should be created and attached to their legal documents so that their trusted agent or successor trustee can obtain necessary access to the accounts if the accountholder is unable. Online bill-paying accounts for utilities, mortgages, and insurance policies are some examples of accounts to be included.

In addition, most Millennials have a pet. Who is going to take care of the pet if something happens to the owner? A pet trust or a pet caregiver should be in place to avoid a situation where the pet could end up in a shelter.

Many Millennials will receive life insurance or a pension plan with their first job and will add a beneficiary of their choice. They may not think, however, about other aspects of estate planning because they do not foresee dying. But who does?  Some people even fear that making plans for how to handle their eventual passing could somehow hasten their demise. Of course, that idea is not true. Estate planning does not make anyone die sooner; but it can make the resulting legal and financial complexities a lot easier for their loved ones to deal with.

Estate planning is a valuable gift to those you love most. It is an important project for people of various ages, including Millennials in their twenties and thirties. When it comes to estate planning, it is never too early to begin.