Millennials: The Untapped Estate Planning Market

By | May 18, 2017

If you’re an employer, a parent, or both, then it will come as no surprise to you that Millennials are a little different than previous generations. Most don’t prioritize the same traditional values as your generation, or those of their parents and grandparents. The stereotypical Millennial is tech savvy, entrepreneurial, and socially conscious. On the downside, many people associate Millennials with job hopping, instant gratification, and sometimes poor work ethic.

The reality isn’t so clear cut. While these twenty- and thirty-somethings value work-life balance and collaboration, many are also saddled with student-loan debt and are slower to marry, have children and buy homes than previous generations. According to a 2014 Gallup poll, only 27% of Millennials were married compared to 36% of Gen Xers and 48% of Baby Boomers when they were the same age.

Millennials settle down later than previous generations, and they’re also waiting longer to consider estate planning. But despite the public perception, this generation is growing up fast, and for a large segment of it, the time to create a will or trust isn’t that far away.

Millennials are a valuable market to tap into for estate planning attorneys. The demographic now represents more than a quarter of the U.S. population. Fortunately, it seems that this generation understands the value of attorneys in the estate planning process: 73% of Millennials think an attorney is an essential element in creating an estate plan. The key to capturing the Millennial market is speaking their language and conveying the value of an estate plan.

Don’t eliminate any demographic

You shouldn’t eliminate any demographic from your list of potential estate planning clients. Spouses, parents, and homeowners span multiple generations and all have reason to consider estate plans, regardless of their net worth. Don’t limit your prospects to the wealthy. Instead, educate prospects about the universal benefits of an estate plan. Proper estate planning can help people achieve many goals, including:

  • Designating a guardian for children
  • Ensuring homes are transferred to designated beneficiaries in the event of death
  • Keeping a business in family hands throughout generations
  • Protecting your family assets in the case of future divorces
  • Avoiding probate
  • Maintaining privacy of assets since trusts are not public records
  • Making provisions for digital assets/online accounts

Millennials need estate planning, too

It’s easy to categorize Millennials as lazy, financially irresponsible social media junkies but these young adults can benefit greatly from an estate plan. That will be especially true in the coming decades because baby boomers — the country’s wealthiest generation — are expected to transfer $30 trillion to Gen Xers and Millennials, according to CNBC. That means millions of young people will inherit significant wealth. As an estate planning attorney, you should be ready to capture this demographic.

To do so, explain why estate planning is beneficial and why even the young and healthy need to plan for their future. Planning takes on greater, but less obvious, significance for those Millennials who prioritize exotic or adventurous travel, have pets, or own a valuable record collection. Estate planning can help Millennials facilitate the preservation of wealth (in the event that trek to Machu Picchu goes awry), manage their assets (like that record collection), and also provide peace of mind (about who will look after the cat). A comprehensive estate plan allows your clients to:

  • Control property while they are alive
  • Provide for themselves and loved ones if they become incapacitated
  • Give what they have to whomever they want, the way they want, and when they want
  • Minimize the impact of fees and taxes

How to help all couples

Just because many Millennials are unmarried doesn’t mean they’re all single and alone. More than 7 million Americans live in unmarried-partner households, up from 3 million in 1990.

In some states, the choice not to marry can have legal and financial ramifications. For example, if one individual dies or becomes incapacitated without a will or trust, it could leave the surviving partner without legal and financial protection. You can help these couples — and all couples — protect their assets and each other with basic estate planning documents, including:

  • Wills. A will is a legal document that can help your clients designate who will receive their assets after death and name guardians for their minor children. They may also specify instructions, such as allowing their partner to live in their house.
  • Trusts. Unlike a will, a trust becomes valid upon execution. In most cases, the grantor can manage the assets in trust and plan for incapacity while they are alive, and upon death, the assets in the trust are passed directly to a trustee, avoiding the probate process.
  • Powers of Attorney. A power of attorney designates a representative to handle financial transactions. These documents can also include important distinctions for scope and timing of control for financial transactions, claims and gifts.
  • Healthcare Advance Directives. Healthcare Advance Directives include Healthcare Power of Attorney, Living Wills and HIPPA Authorization. These components authorize an agent to manage non-end-of-life healthcare decisions, specify end-of-life wishes and establish who can receive medical information on behalf of the patient.

Estate plans can protect Americans regardless of their income or relationship status, and for Millennials, it’s time to plan for the future whether they think it is or not. You can educate this generation about the benefits of estate planning and help your clients prepare for their future.  

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