If you think that estate planning is something that only older people need to do, then you have fallen victim to one of the more common misconceptions. Anyone can benefit from an estate plan no matter how old you are as long as you are old enough to sign a legally binding document. Here are some estate planning tips that can specifically help millennials.
If you have assets, legal issues do not discriminate based on age. In other words, if you do not have a will, your assets will still have to go through the probate process especially if you have no rightful heirs. This may even be more pronounced among millenials who may not have children or a spouse who would automatically stand to inherit their assets should they die. The last thing that you would want is for your estate to be stuck in limbo due to lack of advance planning. Everyone has final wishes no matter how old they are and their own priorities that they wish to see reflected through an estate plan.
The most important estate planning tip for millenials is that it is never too early to begin taking steps for estate planning. In other words, you should start while you are still young, recognizing that things may change as your situation does. You are never too young to start taking concrete steps to either plan for your succession or even to pass down your assets. In fact, as soon as you are 18, you can begin to issue binding directives since you are as much of an adult as your older parents. You may have debt just as everyone else thanks to the student loan debt that most millenials now carry, and the obligation to repay is generally applied against your estate.
Since estate planning can take on many different forms, you may not even be taking the traditional actions that you envision when you think of estate planning. This means that your estate plan is more than just a will. Sometimes, the fact that you have had foresight at an early age can either better ensure that your wishes are carried out in the event of the unthinkable or may even make it easier to engage in estate planning as you get older.
While you may think of estate planning solely as making a will, recognize that a will is a very broad document. Even if you do not have substantial assets, you may have children who you want cared for after you are gone. That will be a part of your last will and testament. There are other aspects of an estate plan that go beyond money. For example, many millenials do not know that estate planning also includes advance health care directives that can dictate what measures are taken to revive them if there is a medical emergency and they are incapacitated. Estate planning also encompasses HIPAA directives that specify who can review and receive personal medical information.
When it comes to thinking broad, you may even have more assets that you previously thought. Don’t forget that your social media accounts can be considered an asset, and you can designate someone as the custodian of these accounts after you die. This can give someone the password to your accounts to make changes that you want to your social media.
As mentioned above, estate planning when you are in your 20s and 30s may not be the same as it is later in life. When you are younger, estate planning may be primarily deciding who will look after your children. You should also try to anticipate how your life may change over the years. Of course, you are not locked into any specific estate plan, but you should at least try to contemplate what you will need in the future so you do not have to make many changes to your estate plan as you get older.
Unless you make some sort of irrevocable trust, anything that you write into your estate plan can be changed as your situation in life changes. Remember that you can always amend your plans. If your hesitation is that you will be locked into an estate plan that you put into place 50 years ago when your circumstances were different, do not let that stop you from beginning to plan now because your fears are unfounded. There is simply no need to do anything at this point that is irrevocable. Your estate plan should reflect your wishes and values as they stand at this point in time with the understanding that what is important to you may be different in the future.
Many millenials have the misconception that these instruments can only protect their husband or wife. However, estate plans are much more broader than that and can be put in place to benefit unmarried partners. Anyone can be given a formal role in your estate plan if you so choose simply by the fact that you are designating them in that capacity. However, if your estate plan does involve an unmarried partner, do not forget to update your plan if you are no longer with that person. Also know that you do not even necessarily need a formal estate plan to make your partner the beneficiary of some of your accounts.
As a millenial, you may not have the background knowledge necessary to begin to plan for these types of issues. An estate planning attorney can help you figure out where to start and how to put your estate plan into action. If you have assets, dependents or any medical directives, you will need an estate plan no matter your age.