Why Millennials Are Estate Planning and Why You Should Too

The Pew Research Center defines the Millennial Generation as anyone born during the years 1981 through 1996. In 2022, “Grandmillennials” will be turning 41 years old, while our youngest Millennials will be turning 26. Millennials are a dynamic generation who have brought us exciting and transformative new technologies like social media and who tend toward socially inclusive values.

Recently, Care.com released their 2022 Wills survey, revealing that Estate Planning among young adults (especially ages 18 to 34) was on the rise since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. When we stop and consider why Millennials would be estate planning more frequently than prior generations, we should not be surprised.

What do Millennials Value Most?

Research shows Millennials value their personal communities and their impact on those communities. Millennials, many of whom are children of the Baby Boomer generation (the largest generation to date and the generation with the highest rates of divorce) learned early on how to rely on people outside of their nuclear family unit for emotional and social support. They coined terms like “my tribe” to describe close friendship groups and “Friendsgiving” (a Thanksgiving celebration with friends, not their nuclear family).

Whereas the “Boomer” generation has traditionally been individualistic in their thinking (famously dubbed the “Me Generation” by writer Tom Wolfe, a generational predecessor, himself), Millennials seem more mindful of their personal impact on the rest of society. Millennials want to know about their carbon footprint and whether their financial investments are socially responsible. They also have the lowest birth rate and when interviewed about their lack of fertility plans, they express concern about rising costs of goods and services, overpopulation of the planet, and the negative impact on earth’s resources for future generations.

It’s no wonder they have adopted such views having grown up during social and economic uncertainty. They were children when 9/11 happened and during the first banking and telecon/tech industry busts; started graduating high school during the great recession of 2008; and were hitting their adult stride when the COVID-19 pandemic happened.

But most of all, Millennials value exercising their voice, and they frequently do so through social media platforms, followed on an international scale.

The Intersection of Estate Planning and Millennial Culture

According to that care.com survey referenced earlier, Estate Planning, once thought of us as a tool for the ultra-rich or geriatric, is now gaining in popularity among the younger generations. Experienced estate planners know that these documents are so much more than just a means to “avoid probate” or “minimize tax liability”. Estate Planning documents are also tools for giving voice to a person’s history and the legacy they want to create.

And when we speak of legacies we aren’t just speaking of the money and property a person leaves behind when they die, but also their personal relationships. Through Estate Planning, a “Testator” or “Settlor” (one who makes a Will or Trust) can completely alter state laws concerning inheritance. Instead of benefitting just the nuclear family unit, a Testator or Settlor can leave their money and property to step-family, close friends, lovers (or former lovers!), and/or social and charitable interests.

A Testator or Settlor can also alter the order of priority of persons a probate court would otherwise appoint to manage and administer a deceased person’s property. State probate laws frequently instruct the court to choose a family member of the deceased to manage an estate when a person dies without a Will or Trust. But a “Testator” or “Settlor” can forego those ancient, legally-traditional appointees in favor of their more trusted friends, social advisors, or even professional fiduciaries (their “tribe”).

Through estate planning, an individual not only gets to wield some measure of control over an important aspect of their life, they also get to send personal messages to those they leave behind. Be that good or bad. Their selections for devisees (people who will receive their property), executors (people who will offer a Will for probate and be responsible for the estate), and trustees (people who will manage and administer a lifetime financial legacy for the benefit of a person or charity), send subliminal messages such as, “I have chosen not to provide for you, in favor of my social and charitable interests” to “You are not part of my circle of trust … and you probably know why” to “This person I have named is like family to me”. And those are powerful, social messages and legacies! It can be said that Estate Planning is the best way to “have the final say”.

It’s no wonder more Millennials are estate planning now, more than ever. Estate Planning is the perfect platform to preserve their social legacies. And when you view it that way, Estate Planning is no longer something to delay until you have enough money or time to spare. Instead, it becomes a social imperative.

Born *prior to* 1981, the author of this article, Adriane S. Grace, considers herself a “Xennial”. She still recalls typewriting classes, floppy boot disk drives, typing DOS prompt commands, phone booths, payphones, and microfiche researching at the public library. But, she’s just as savvy using social media, apps, and texting with emojis (although she much prefers a good old-fashioned telephone conversation). If you are a Millennial or feel inspired by Millennial culture to start the estate planning conversation, contact us today! We will help you create a meaningful legacy through personalized estate planning documents that reflect your values, with confidence and Grace.

Links to articles that informed this author’s post:


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