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Estate Planning Essentials for Every Millennial to Consider...TODAY

January 2016

For most people the thought of planning for your death may seem macabre or perhaps some sort of jinx. This may especially hold true if you are a millennial and basking in the spring of your life. You likely fit into one of two camps: 1) those beginning to accumulate wealth and 2) those who believe that they have no wealth and thus have no "estate" to plan. Whichever camp you fall into and, regardless of your age, there is no better time for estate planning than the present.

Having grown up amidst a technological boom many of us may think that an estate plan is something that we can just Google and prepare ourselves – worst case scenario, we may have to watch a YouTube tutorial. However, building a sufficient estate plan (or even a bare bones estate plan) is something you should entrust to an estate attorney to ensure that your medical wishes and final legacy are not left up to a court or governmental agency to decide.

Do-it-yourself legal document preparation sites and legal forms are often not recognized by banks or courts, and lack the necessary legal language and considerations. In many cases, insufficient documentation leads to very lengthy and expensive court proceedings.

Effective and comprehensive estate planning does not simply mean having a Last Will and Testament or a trust.

Here are some relatively simple estate planning solutions that every millennial should consider and that every advisor to a millennial should nudge them to consider.

  • Healthcare Proxy and Living Will: These documents are often confused as being one and the same, but serve twodifferent functions. AHealthcare Proxy or Healthcare Power of Attorney allows you to name a person as your Healthcare Agent and gives them the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf should you be unable to do so – a power that your parent or guardian holds by default until you reach the age of majority. Upon turning 18 you have the power to delegate that responsibility to whomever you choose. Whereas, a Living Will or Health Directiveallows you to state your wishes for end of life medical care to physicians should you lose the ability to communicate for yourself. Living Wills became largely popular after the drawn out legal proceedings In Re: Guardianship of Theresa Marie Schiavo in which Terri Schiavo was kept in a vegetative state for nearly fifteen years. At the time of the medical event that precipitated her incapacitation – Terri was only 26 years old and like many people her age – did not have a Living Will.
     
  • Power of Attorney: This document can be drafted to come into effect should you no longer be able, or are temporarily unable, to handle your financial affairs – i.e. pay bills, file taxes, pursue litigation, and access benefit programs. Recently, Power of Attorneys have been used to give control to digital assets and social media – which provides your designated agent the authority to access, use, and control your digital devices, social network and email accounts, digital music, photographs, videos, software licenses, file sharing accounts, financial accounts, domain registrations, web hosting accounts, and a multitude of other online and digital services in the event of a situation which renders you incapable. Unless revoked, the power created by a Power of Attorney is limited to the duration of your life.
     
  • Disposition of Remains: An often underutilized tool which allows you todesignatehow your body or remains are to be handled at your time of death. Through this document you assign an agent the authority to carry out your funerary wishes. It certainly may seem macabre at first glance or even unnecessary, but by way of example: perhaps you are a secular humanist, but your funeral arrangements will be handled by a devout religious family member – this then becomes an important document to include in your estate plan.
     
  • Beneficiary Designations: Whether it is on an insurance policy or a 401K always make sure to have your beneficiary designations up-to-date. This can also be an especially crafty tool for people who have charitable inclinations, but are unable to financially donate to organizations while alive. Beneficiary designations do not require the assistance of an attorney and are non- probate assets.
     
  • Last Will and Testament: The quintessential estate planning document. Although incorrectly associated with people having “lots of money” to leave behind. You can use your Last Will and Testament to establish not only where your financial assets go – but also pets, personal property, for those of us with children – guardianship and instructions for how you wish for your children to be raised in the event of your death. Wills are also an important consideration for people in long term relationships who are not married, but would like for their significant other to receive certain assets or property in the event of their death.

Although this article is geared towards Millennial estate planning, regardless of your age or financial situation the information contained herein is beneficial. There is no better time for estate planning than the present and consulting an estate planning attorney is the best way to ensure that your desires in life or after are met.