The Millennial Legal Oversight: Estate Planning

Estate planning is rarely a priority for Millennials (defined as people aged 18-34), especially those who don’t have children or own a sports car collection. Even those who have started families or own significant assets tend to avoid the notion of a sudden health scare. However, estate planning isn’t about expecting the worst – it’s about protecting your assets, your values, and the people most important to you. Without an estate plan, a probate court will decide what happens to your assets in a process that is often lengthy, tedious and expensive.

Proper estate planning is not only necessary to prepare for the scary notion of an untimely death, but also the possibility of temporary incapacity. Even the healthiest and most cautious people can fall victim to an accident or health emergency. What will happen if you are involved in a car accident and need to be hospitalized for an extended period? Who will pay your rent and credit card bill? Who will take care of your pet? A Durable Power of Attorney is a legal document that designates a trusted individual to handle your personal affairs during your incapacity in accordance with your detailed instructions.

Estate planning is not only about your possessions – it also involves your healthcare decisions. If you become incapacitated, who will be responsible for making healthcare decisions on your behalf? Most Millennials fail to realize that, under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), after they turn 18, their family no longer has a legal right to access their healthcare information. A Healthcare Power of Attorney is a legal document that designates a trusted individual to make your healthcare decisions in the event of your incapacity. A HIPAA Waiver can authorize this individual to receive your healthcare information and become fully informed before making such decisions. In addition, an Advance Healthcare Directive can provide instructions to your caretakers as to whether, and for how long, you desire life-prolonging treatment. This spares your loved ones from the stress of making such serious decisions on your behalf.

Those with children should always protect their financial future by way of a Trust. A Trust allows you to create a fund and designate a trusted individual to manage it in accordance with your specific instructions after your death or incapacity. This ensures that the funds will only be distributed to your chosen beneficiaries (children or other loved ones) for purposes that you see fit, such as for a college education – but not a new sports car. A Trust also saves your family from the lengthy probate process and minimizes the taxes imposed on your assets.

Estate planning is not just for grandparents – it is an important process through which young people should protect their assets, their values, and the people most important to them. The legal intricacies of estate planning vary by person and by jurisdiction – and there’s no iPhone® app for it. You should always complete your estate plan with the counsel of a knowledgeable attorney. If you have any questions or concerns about estate planning, or seek assistance in the preparation of any of the documents mentioned above, please contact Jeff Levine at jalevine@strausstroy.com.

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