We know that people don’t want to talk about death. Even baby boomers, who are coming to terms with their own mortality, don’t like to talk about death. However, if you die without a will or an estate plan, the Chicago Tribune says the consequences for those you love can be financially and emotionally disastrous. The article is titled “Family Finances: Even millennials need an estate plan.”
A will details how you want assets distributed after death. It names an executor to handle those assets. Without a will, you are dying “intestate” and the state will decide how to distribute your property and funds. If you aren’t married and don’t have any children, most states will start with your parents. However, if you have a will, the entire process becomes much easier.
There are two documents that are even more important than a will for a single healthy millennial. The first is a Power of Attorney. Through this legal document, you appoint the person who is empowered to make decisions about financial matters on your behalf, if you cannot. It’s for when you are incapacitated, by illness or injury, and also if you are unavailable for other reasons, like if you are travelling.
The second document is called an advance medical directive. This defines your end-of-life wishes about medical treatment. The person you name, will be able to carry out decisions like this on your behalf. This is unpleasant, but necessary to address. If you don’t designate a health care agent or fall into a persistent vegetative state, you will probably be kept alive artificially by default. This may not be what you wanted, but if no one has the legal document telling them what you wanted, then this is what happens.
What happens to your digital assets when you die? Facebook now has a default, where it memorializes your account, and you can appoint a legacy contact or direct Facebook to delete the account, if that is your preference. Google now lets you choose up to ten trusted contacts, who can download data from your Gmail, photos and more, if you become inactive for a certain period of time. Most states have now enacted laws that govern how an executor can access your digital assets, but you still have to tell the platforms, one at a time, what your wishes are.
Cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, are another aspect of millennial life that have to be addressed in advance, if they are not going to disappear completely when you die.
An estate planning attorney will do more than create documents for you; they’ll create a plan that addresses issues that arise during life, as well as after death. Estate planning documents, including the three mentioned above, are governed by state law, so you’ll want to work with an attorney who is familiar with the laws of your state.
Resource: Chicago Tribune (Oct. 9, 2018 “Family Finances: Even millennials need an estate plan”