Estate Plan Decisions to Make Before You Turn 40

We’ve pulled together the top things to think about estate- and legacy-wise in your 20s and 30s. So, fellow Millennials and Gen-Z-ers, check ‘em off and rest assured that you’ll have your basics covered if, God-forbid, something happens to you:

1. Name Guardians for Your Children–and Pets! 

If you don’t designate guardians for your dependents (human, furry, or otherwise) in your will, the court will! Many assume a judge will name their parent or another family member as guardian, but this isn’t always the case. Families can get into brutal fights over guardianship, which makes for an unstable home when kids/pets need comfort and stability more than ever. In some cases, the family might not even be the best choice! Are your aging parents able to care for energetic toddlers? Is your adventurous brother willing to pivot his life to raise your preteens? You want the best for your kids, so make sure they’re placed in an environment similar to the one you’ve created..

Or maybe you’re a proud #DogMom or dad (goldendoodle, anyone?). Did you know you can set up guardianship or even a trust for your fur-babies, too? Only 9% of people with wills bother including their pets (American Pet Products Association)! You’d do anything for your pet, so don’t drop the ball on making sure they would go to a good home and will be able to maintain their lifestyle standards if something happens to you.

2. Name Your Estate Decision-makers (AKA “Avoid Probate!”)

A Personal Representative is the head honcho of your estate. If you die without a will or trust, your estate might have to go through probate, a long and tedious process that includes months of court dates and meetings for your loved ones to decide what goes where. To avoid probate, make sure you have a basic will created, and invest in an attorney to make sure it’s done correctly. A Personal Representative (or Executor), Power of Attorney for Healthcare, and/or Power of Attorney will play important roles in helping carry out your wishes. (Read more about the difference between those roles here).

3. Make a Plan for Paying off Debt/Loans 

The average student debt of adults ages 25 to 34 is $33,000 per borrower, and mortgages and car loans and credit card debt is all on top of that. Having life insurance can protect your parents from having to pay back your loans, if they co-signed on them and something happens to you. Life insurance is cheap at our age (one bonus to being young!) and a basic policy should cover all debts and the cost of a funeral. 

4. Make a Plan for Physical Assets…You Have More Than You Think! 

If you’re one of the 53% of Millennials who own a home (Qualtrics Millennial Study, 2017) and you think it’ll automatically go to your spouse or significant other, you might want to think again! Create a basic itinerary of your major assets, like your car and home and shiny new retirement fund…heck, even your vintage Nike sneaker collection. Then decide who should get what in the case of your death.

5. Same Goes for Your Digital Assets 

The defining attribute of a Millennial is that he/she is a “digital native,” meaning we grew up with the Internet and have oodles of loose digital strings out there. From Google/Apple Photos and social media accounts to online funds, your digital assets need to be taken care of. You can set up a Legacy Contact to take over your Facebook account if you die, and in some states, you can even name a digital executor in your will. Check out our Important Documents to Keep Together with Your Legacy/Estate Plan list to get a good starting point for documents to pull together, digital and otherwise. It’ll help jog your memory about all the stuff you have out there, and what might be important to let your estate managers know.

If anything sticks with you from this blog post, I hope it’s this: estate planning goes far beyond inheritances and trust funds. It’s all about taking care of your loved ones! Getting this stuff organized is easier than you think, and this might be the most adult thing you do this year.


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