Estate Planning for Millennials.
Get on top of your estate planning, so you can get on with your life.
If you are a Millennial in your twenties or thirties, you may be wondering why you need an estate plan in the first place. Estate planning is probably the last thing you are thinking about. This is especially true if you are renting, don’t have kids, and don’t have a lot of belongings or assets to worry about.
However, an estate plan covers much more than your belongings — it covers nearly every aspect of your life.
While no one, Boomers included, likes to think about death or disability, planning ahead for these events is part of #adulting and can make life so much easier for yourself and your loved ones.
Why do Millennials need estate planning?
Although you may believe that estate planning is not necessary at this stage in life, you will be surprised to find out that it is more important than you think.
If you have been with your partner for a long time and you trust them to make financial decisions for you if you are incapacitated or unexpectedly pass away, an estate plan gives them this legal power.
An estate plan can give the person whom you choose the legal power to make medical decisions for you, based on your wishes, in the event you are hospitalized or put on life support.
With an estate plan, millennials can protect their digital assets and designate who will be responsible for them in the future. These assets can include things like cryptocurrency, websites, social media accounts, intellectual property created and stored on the cloud, and photos and videos.
Guardianship of Minors
If you have kids, they are likely minors. This leaves them vulnerable if you pass away, as they can be at the mercy of the court system. Make sure you have designated guardians in your estate plan to ensure your kids are cared for by those whom you trust.
Guardianship of Pets
Pets are property under the law. Yes, they are property! Without a legal plan for your pet, such as a designated guardian and caretaker, a cherished animal could end up with an unintended caregiver, in a shelter or euthanized.
If you own any belongings or assets – such as collectibles, artwork, jewelry, designer clothing, Air Jordans, Yeezys, Louboutins, Louis Vuitton bags, family heirlooms – you want to make sure the people you choose will get them when you’re gone.
Likewise, if you have any amount of life insurance or retirement benefits, you want to properly name your partner, siblings, friends or parents as your beneficiary to ensure they receive your payout and it doesn’t go into the state’s unclaimed property coffers.
Now is the time to start planning.
You are mentally and physically capable of making an estate plan, right now. Do not put it off until it is too late.
You never know what the future holds, so it is entirely possible that you will be unable to properly make an estate plan years from now.
Get ahead of the unexpected and design an estate plan while you are in good health, both mentally and physically. You can always revisit the plan in the future to make revisions and updates as life changes.
If you die without an estate plan or, at minimum, a Last Will, your assets may go into Florida’s unclaimed property coffers (currently holding over $1 billion in unclaimed property). Alternatively, your estate will go through the lengthy and costly probate process. This is where the court will decide what happens to your things and can end up giving them away to the wrong people.
What makes up an estate plan?
Estate plans are not one size fits all. Each plan is as unique as the person for whom the plan is designed. There are various documents that may be used together to make up an estate plan. However, there are more common documents that must be a part of a Millennial’s estate plan no matter your age, financial standing, or martial status.
Last Will & Testament
A Last Will & Testament is an in-depth look at what will happen to your estate when you pass away, and describes:
(i) what assets you own, either specifically or broadly (i.e., all of my record collection, my Peloton bike and accessories, all of my handbags, only my black Christian Louboutins – not my red ones, I’m getting buried in those!);
(ii) who you want to control those assets (your “personal representative” or “executor”); and
(iii) who gets your assets (your “beneficiaries”) and how they are to be distributed (outright or in trust).
You may not think you have much of an estate right now, but you likely have numerous belongings, accounts, and even digital assets that require a last will and testament to direct them to the right people. Estate planning for Millennials is super important, and a Last Will & Testament is a good place to start.
Learn more about the importance of a Last Will & Testament in Florida.
Another place to start estate planning for Millennials is a Living Trust.
A Living Trust is an important estate planning tool that can allow a Millennial to protect their property and avoid the probate process in Florida.
For Millennials that own their homes, have children, and/or have significant assets (such as stocks, life insurance policies with a large payout amount, and retirement benefits), a Trust may be a better option than a Last Will. Likewise, a Trust may be a better option for Millennials that have minor children, want to avoid family turmoil, and/or have charitable interests.
Similar to a Will, a Living Trust allows the creator to list all of their assets, name a trusted person to manage those assets (“trustee”), list to whom those assets will be distributed (“beneficiary”), and how they will be distributed (outright or cascading trusts).
Unlike a Last Will; however, a Trust becomes active the moment is it signed and notarized, meaning that it is also useful during your incapacity. A Will becomes active only after your death, so it does not help in the event you are alive, but incapable of making your own decisions.
Learn more about the importance of Living Trusts and how they can help Millennials protect and manage their property.
Power of Attorney
A Power of Attorney in Florida allows you to appoint a trusted individual (your “Agent’) to make any business or financial decisions on your behalf in the event of your incapacity.
Even if you don’t have any business to worry about, this is an important designation to make. Your designated Agent can be tasked with handling all of your finances, including the management of your bank accounts, stocks, and any other financial responsibilities.
For example, your rent and credit card debts will still be due even if you are in the hospital. In case you are unable to make these payments, your Agent can do so on your behalf.
Giving someone a power of attorney over you is a huge responsibility, so do not make this decision without thought. The person appointed your Agent has the ability to empty out your accounts in the event you are incapacitated, so again, you do not want to give this role to anyone but the most trusted in your circle.
Health Care Directives
Estate planning for Millennials is not just about protecting your money and things. It also includes legal documents to protect your health care and to provide guidelines for your desired medical treatment in the event you cannot make those decisions yourself.
Advance Health Care Directives in Florida are critical estate planning documents for all Millennials. While a Last Will & Testament does not become active until after you pass away, Advance Health Care Directives take effect right away.
Advance Health Care Directives include, at minimum, a Living Will, Designation of Health Care Surrogate, and HIPAA authorizations.
Together, these documents focus on what happens to you in the event that you are incapacitated and unable to make decisions regarding life support and end of life medical care, and who can make these medical care decisions on your behalf if you are in a coma or unresponsive.
Even if you are young and in great health right now, accidents can happen. These critical estate planning documents protect you in the event the worst has happened and you can no longer make decisions for yourself.
Learn more about the important of Advance Health Care Directives and what needs to be included within those documents.
Guardian of Minor Designation
If you have any children or dependents under 18, make sure you designate guardians for their safety and care. Nominating guardians for minor children will prevent them from entering the temporary foster care system until a legal guardian can be appointed.
Don’t think this can happen? Think again. Just because you want grandma and grandpa to take care of your kids if you are gone, does not mean they have the legal right to do so. The authorities will not just turn over your kids to anyone without the proper legal documentation.
Executing a legal guardian of minor document will guarantee the people you trust the most are in charge of your children’s care.
Learn more about the importance of naming guardians for your minor children.
Estate planning for Millennials should also include the proper designation of beneficiary forms for your titled assets, bank accounts, retirement accounts, investment accounts, and life insurance.
It is incorrect to think that your parents or loved ones can just gain access and ownership to your money and things after you pass away. Without proper written designations, your accounts and assets could be lost to the state or given away by the courts.
When designating beneficiaries, make sure that if you designate someone with any kind of disability, their inheritance won’t disqualify them from any benefits.
Also, be aware that if you have children under 18 and they are designated as beneficiaries, their funds can be handled by the court and given to the person in charge of your estate. To avoid this, make sure you list a custodian to handle their finances. This person will watch over their inheritance and make sure they get it when they’re legal adults.
If you do not have any children, think about who you would like to designate as beneficiaries. Your parents, siblings, relatives, or even close friends are all solid choices. Make sure you include multiple back ups, as you want reinforcements in case any of the beneficiaries die before they can receive the inheritance. (These things can happen.)
Estate planning for Millennials final tips.
I hope you thoughtfully read everything up to this point, and have a better understanding of why estate planning is important at this point in your life and what is needed in your plan.
It cannot be understated that estate planning is a process that takes time and prep work. You cannot phone this one in. There’s no half-assing it. Pull up your big-person pants and get started today.
The following final tips will help you stay on top of your estate planning from beginning to end, and ensure you do not miss anything important along the way.
Things to Organize
✓ Important health care information
✓ Bank account statements
✓ Physical property inventory
✓ Personal property inventory
✓ Digital asset inventory & access info
✓ Life Insurance policy & documents
✓ Retirement account documents
✓ Investment account & stocks documents
✓ Real property deeds and titles
✓ Mortgage statements
✓ Student loan documents
✓ Credit card & other debt documents
✓ Automobile, boat, RV title
✓ Self-owned business documents
✓ Human Wealth passages
Agent & Guardian Considerations
✓ Level of trust
✓ Location of person
✓ Age and life experience
✓ Family dynamics
Documents to Prepare
✓ Last Will & Testament or Living Trust
✓ Power of Attorney
✓ Advance Health Care Directives
✓ Nomination of Guardian for Minor Children
✓ Beneficiary Designation forms
As life goes on, things will change. You might purchase a house, open a business, get married or divorced, have a kid (or more kids), open new investment accounts, obtain life insurance, receive a funded retirement plan from an employer, and/or receive an inheritance from a parent.
No matter the life event, do not forget to continually update your estate planning documents. Make sure your Agent, guardian and beneficiary designations are up-to-date, and confirm that your trust (if you have one) is always properly funded.
Working with an experienced estate planning lawyer is always a good idea to ensure that you and your family are protected now and in the future.
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