I am a millennial. I grew up in the age of the Internet, computers, and text messaging. I had my first cell phone in late elementary school, where I mastered the game of Snake on a one-inch square screen. My generation then progressed past dial-up Internet, Game Boy, and CD players to smartphones, apps, and Beats headphones. Millennials are unique and have very distinctive estate planning needs.
Millennials present an estate planning challenge because we often must consider both sides of the fence: inheritance and our own planning. More wealth will be transferred in our parents’ generation than in any other (approximately $30 trillion in the next 30 years). This wealth shift makes discussions between millennials and our parents about estate plans and family business transitioning relevant and timely.
For planning, the millennial’s first step should be a private one: think. Take a moment, and truly contemplate, “What happens if…” Ask honest questions and listen openly for answers. “Who should receive my assets? Spouse? Siblings? Friend? Charity?” “Who should be the personal representative (sometimes called an executor) of my estate?” This reflective step does not have to be formal or the answers well developed. Professional advisors can help you in answering these questions. There are no right or wrong answers; they are personal and specific to the millennial.
When should these thoughts take place? One suggestion is upon the occurrence of so-called life events. These events can be joyous, such as a marriage, home purchase, or birth of a child. They can also be devastating, such as the death of a family member or divorce. Advisors can help millennials plan for and respond to these life events. Estate plans should be established when millennials are young adults, and then reevaluated as priorities, designees, and life circumstances change.
The inheritance discussion is more difficult. If the millennial has not yet been informed as to his or her parents’ estate and their plans for it, the millennial might gently open the door for discussions. Simple questions such as “What happens after my parents’ deaths?” “Who are the executors of my parents’ estates?” and “How will assets be divided?” may lead to more thoughtful and informative discussions. Now is the time for parents and millennials to work together in this process. Advisors can assist both generations with this process to help reduce the learning curve and facilitate the best result.