Estate planning for millennials? Surely that’s the last thing that generation is thinking about. Jokes and memes about millennials abound online. When a meme about the three biggest millennial fears is all about being connected here and now, it’s no wonder that estate planning is not a high priority for people in their 20’s and 30’s. This is a generation that (for the most part) have not yet accumulated a significant asset pool like the generations proceeding them. They’ve got plenty of time. They’re taking their time getting married and having kids and therefore they’re taking their time thinking about estate planning, according to a Bloomberg report.
USA Today recently reported that Millennials — those born roughly between 1980-2000 — would rather enjoy the present than prepare for the future. Millennials are enjoying connecting with the here and now, not worrying about who will make decisions for them if they become incapacitated. An enduring power of attorney seems like a very distant form to complete. 31 year-old Usman Ahmad echoes the sentiments of many a Millennial when explaining his decision to not buy life insurance: “I’m not planning on dying anytime soon,” he says. “So it’s a waste of money.”
But we don’t get to choose when we die. The millennial generation are no different to the generations that have come before and the ones that will follow after. Death comes to us all, and tragically young for some people.
While many of us will get to live long lives, there are some who will die tomorrow (including millennials) that will upset the natural order of death. The unnatural order of death is when children die before their parents or when nieces and nephews die before their aunts and uncles. It just doesn’t seem right and yet it is inescapable in a world that contains sickness and tragedy.
Not everything is rosy for millennials. Their generation face serious health threats, including high rates of suicide, homicide, motor vehicle accidents, and substance abuse. Between 1999 and 2004, nearly nine percent of 20- to 29-year-olds reported having experienced major depression, generalized anxiety disorder or panic disorder in the past year. In particular, young women are nearly twice as likely (11 percent) to report these symptoms than are young men (6 percent). Motor vehicle accidents remain the leading cause of death for young adults ages 15-29, followed by homicide and suicide. In fact, seven out of 10 deaths for those aged 10-24 in 2005 were the result of these three killers.
Just over 1 in 4 of today’s 20 year-olds will become disabled before they retire. According to CDA’s 2013 Long-Term Disability Claims Review, the leading causes of long-term disability include musculoskeletal/connective tissue disorders, disorders of the nervous system and cardiovascular disorders. Approximately 90% of disabilities are caused by illnesses rather than accidents.
Why Should Millennials do Estate Planning?
You are worth something. Not just assets and life insurance if you have them, but your life is meaningful. Estate planning is not just about writing a will to pass on your stuff. Estate planning is like a love letter to those who are important to you. Estate planning does mean something now – it is not just for later on. A good estate lawyer will encourage you to discuss and share your estate plans with your loved ones. While your sister may not be massively excited that you are going to leave her your old, beat-up VW beetle, she will understand that you have included her in your will and therefore your head and heart.
But remember – many young Australians have a life insurance policy within their superannuation. This could be tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars in your estate! Who will receive it? Your parents or your partner? A binding death nomination is one of the only ways in which you get to decide who should receive this asset.
Good estate planning also includes an advance health directive. Millennials understand that we are living in a time where our chances of having a longer life have been increased because of advances in medical technology and understanding of the body. An advance health directive helps to give us control over what happens to us medically when we are incapacitated in any way. It is a formal way of outlining what you wish for your future health care. It only comes into effect if you lose the capacity to make decisions. Although you cannot account for every medical scenario in this document, you can outline generally what treatment you wish to or don’t wish to receive should you become unable to speak for yourself.
Doing Your Estate Planning Does Not Speed Up the Download of Your Life
Kate Muller is a wills and estates lawyer at Mitchells Solicitors. She says she finds practicing this area of law rewarding. “Sometimes people – especially young people – are reluctant to deal with these issues. It’s probably that they just don’t see the need to do it because they don’t think they’re going to die soon,” she says. “Yet it’s universal that when you sign your will and your estate planning is done, you feel great.”
Writing your will does not make your death imminent, but it does ensure that your assets do go to the people you want to benefit from them. This is particularly important if you have minor children. In a will you can nominate a guardian for your minor children for if both you and the other parent die before they turn 18 years of age, otherwise the court will decide for you. Estate planning allows you to plan for the unexpected as well as the expected. We hope that our children will never need a guardian but burying our heads in the sand will not make it so.