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Madison Wisconsin's Estate Planning Blog

Thursday, February 18, 2021

MILLENNIALS, YOU NEED AN ESTATE PLAN TOO

As millennials (born 1981 to 1996), you are well known for your distinctiveness as a group. Your generation has followed paths and set goals that are decidedly different from those chosen by previous generations. You are highly diverse, better educated, more socially conscious, and wait longer to have families than your parents and grandparents. But one thing you have in common with other generational groups is the need for estate planning. Unfortunately, a startling 79% of millennials do not have basic estate plans in place. Your needs and goals may vary, but having an estate plan in place is crucial for every adult, including millennials. You do not know what the future holds, and we can help you make sure that plans are in place that not only provide for your own future needs but also those of your loved ones and pets.

Will and/or Trust

As a millennial, you may not have accumulated as much wealth as members of older generations, but it is important for you to make sure that your money and property will go to the family members or loved ones you have chosen if something happens to you. If you do not have a will or trust, your money and property will pass to the person designated by state law, which may not be the person you would want to inherit your prized possessions and money. In addition, if you are married and have young children, you need to take steps to ensure that your spouse and children are provided for. A trust is often the best solution: If your spouse inherits your money and property outright under a will, and your spouse eventually remarries, your assets could go to the second spouse instead of your children. In addition, the inheritance will be vulnerable to claims made by your spouse’s creditors. A trust can avoid these results by allowing you to choose who receives your property and money, as well as the timing and size of the gifts.

Pet trust. If you are one of many millennials, especially those who live in large urban areas, who chose either to delay having children or to remain childless, you may have adopted pets that you love and dote upon just as you would a child. Especially if you are single, you should consider a pet trust to provide for your pet’s care if something happens to you. The pet trust can allow you to make arrangements for your pet if you die or are physically unable to care for them yourself. The pet trust can not only specify a caregiver for your pet, it can also provide care instructions and set aside funds sufficient to care for your pet’s needs (medical care, grooming, exercise, etc.). You also have the ability to name an additional person to manage the money you have set aside for your pet, if you would rather have someone other than the caregiver in charge of the money.

Charitable remainder trust. Millennials are well known for being socially conscious and wanting to make a positive difference in the world. If you want your money and possessions to support a charitable cause when you pass away, you may be interested in establishing a charitable remainder trust, which enables you to benefit from a stream of income for your own life, with the remaining money in the trust going to a charity you have selected upon your death.

Planning for Student Loans or Credit Card Debt

As the cost of college tuition continues to increase, the level of debt millennials have begun their adult lives with is startlingly high. The average student loan debt of adults aged 25 to 34 is $33,000 per borrower. Federal student loans typically are forgiven upon the borrower’s death, but the estates of borrowers who obtained private loans can be pursued by those lenders. In addition, high credit card debt is prevalent among millennials. If you have incurred substantial debt, life insurance sufficient to cover income tax on the cancellation of debt in the case of a federal student loan or to cover the debt itself if a student loan is owed to a private lender or money is owed to a credit card company may be a good solution if you are concerned about the burden your debt could place on your loved ones upon your death.

Digital Assets

If you are like many millennials, who are the first generation who grew up using the internet, you have likely amassed a much greater quantity of digital assets than members of previous generations. These assets may include social media accounts, blogs, photographs and videos, financial accounts, and email accounts, among many others. A comprehensive list of these of these assets, which may be among your most prized possessions, as well as the accompanying usernames and passwords, and instructions for their management, is essential to ensure that your wishes are honored if you pass away or become too ill to manage them on your own. Depending upon your wishes, you can appoint a separate person to wind up (or continue managing, e.g., in the case of a blog) these assets and accounts, or you can choose to have your executor or trustee handle this aspect of your estate. The list, which can be incorporated by reference into your other estate planning documents, should be stored in a secure place along with your will and/or trust.

Powers of Attorney

Medical power of attorney. If you are a younger millennial, you may not realize that your parents no longer automatically have the right to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become too ill to make them on your own or if you are unable to communicate your wishes. Even if you are married, your spouse may still need to be properly named in a medical power of attorney to make decisions for you when you cannot. It is also important to designate a trusted person to act on your behalf if your spouse is unavailable. If you fail to have a medical power of attorney prepared, a court proceeding may be necessary to appoint someone to fill that role if, e.g., you are in an automobile accident and are unconscious. You should also consider completing a living will spelling out your wishes regarding medical treatment you want--or don’t want--at the end of your life or if you are in a persistent vegetative state.

Financial power of attorney. Another document that is essential for your care if you were to become unconscious or too ill to make your own financial decisions is a financial power of attorney. It allows a person you have named to pay bills, take care of your home, manage your accounts, and make other money-related decisions for you. Even if you are married, a financial power of attorney is important because any bank accounts or other property that are not jointly owned cannot be managed by your spouse without it—unless your spouse goes to court and asks to be appointed as your guardian, causing unnecessary stress in an already distressing situation. A financial power of attorney can also be helpful if you do a lot of international travel and may occasionally need someone to handle your financial matters while you are out of the country.

Let Us Help You Prepare for the Future

You may think that estate planning is only for the elderly. However, even if you are young, an estate plan is crucial, regardless of whether you have accumulated much money or property. A properly executed estate plan provides not only for the well-being of your family, loved ones, and pets, but also allows you to put plans in place in case you become ill or are severely injured and cannot make medical and financial decisions for yourself. Call us today to prepare for the future.

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