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Estate Planning for Millennials Part 1: The Last Will and Testament

“I regret not taking care of this when I was young and healthy.” As an estate planning lawyer, I hear this remark frequently. Estate planning is often thought of as something you do when you are older.

However, millennials think long-term much more than generations prior. They are often described as being more open-minded and having a darker, sarcastic, and more realistic view of the world. While planning for death was upsetting and difficult for their parents, millennials embrace it. This leads to part one of this series: The Last Will and Testament.

Now in their late 20s to early 30s, millennials are experiencing life’s biggest changes. They are established in their careers and buying their first major assets. Specifically, the purchase of the first home (if they can find one) sends most individuals to six- or seven-figure net worth for the first time. The family situation also changes dramatically. First marriages and children are common. For some, divorce, remarriage, adoption, and stepchildren come into play. Regardless of the situation, creating a Last Will and Testament is important not just for the individual but for their families as well.

Wills effectively dispose of the property in someone’s own name when they die. The Will declares who receives property upon death and states when and how they receive it. The Will names an “executor,” who is responsible for carrying out those wishes. The Will can also name legal guardians for minor children and set up trusts for them. If someone does not have a valid Will, New York State determines who inherits the property, known as “intestacy.”

When someone dies, more assets equal more problems. Families fight, properties go unmaintained, and assets are drained by fighting legal battles over, ironically, the same assets. Sadly, young parents who die together in common accidents often leave no legal directive as to their children. Guardianship of the child and their inheritance are frequently contested by opposing family members, driving them further apart.

The Last Will and Testament provides the roadmap for everyone to follow. It ensures property goes where it should and that the right people are named as executors, trustees, and guardians. Establish these directives while young and healthy. Do not live to regret it.

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