Millennials, Time to Get a Will
Unmarried, with no children, you still need to have a will. Think of it as a way to make your parents proud of you—and spare them the further pain of what happens, when no will is in place.
It’s not surprising to learn that a recent survey from caring.com revealed that more than three quarters of millennials have not taken the time to prepare a will. It’s a combination of being young adults who can’t quite imagine their own mortality and skirting the issue because it’s uncomfortable. However, what millennials don’t know, and need to learn, is that not having a will, even without a spouse or children or a large estate, can create a lot of problems for loved ones, like parents and siblings.
Kiplinger’s article “Why Everyone Needs an Estate Plan” explains that a will details exactly how you want your property distributed after your death. A will also designates an Personal Reprsentative (aka executor) to handle these transfers. If you die intestate or without a will, state law dictates how to distribute your property and funds. That process generally begins with your parents, if you are unmarried or don't have children (unless an account like your bank account designates a beneficiary or is held jointly). Even if you want to leave everything to your parents, a will can make things a lot easier.
Two other important documents are a durable power of attorney, which names the person who can manage financial matters on your behalf if you’re unable, and a healthcare proxy/HIPPA, which designates an individual to carry out these decisions on your behalf, and also gives them access to your medical records. In Massachusetts, a healthcare proxy only works if you are incapacitated (as determined by your doctor). There may still be situations in which you'd like someone else to be able to talk to your doctors or help with coordinating care which is why the HIPPA is important -- this works even if you are not incapacitated.
Without a legal document that specifies your wishes or that names a health care agent, you run the risk of a situation that won’t end well. If you fall into a persistent vegetative state, because of illness or an accident, you’ll probably be kept alive artificially.
And for you pet owners, be sure there is someone who can care for your pet, and knows that you have one, if you become hospitalized. I sometimes give clients a simple "Pet Care Card" to put in your wallet. It lets someone know that there is a pet at home and gives the name of the neighbor or family member who can get over there and walk the dog or feed the cat.
Stop putting it off. Give thought to who you want to be in charge of your estate, if you should pass—that’s your Personal Representative (aka Executor)—and who you would want to make decisions on your behalf, if you are unable to, both financial and medical. Remember that it does not have to be a parent or a sibling, but it does have to be someone you trust to make decisions and stick to those decisions. It may not be your best friend, but it needs to be someone who you can rely on.
Meet with an experienced estate planning attorney to discuss what needs to be done for your particular situation. You may not need a complex plan, but you should have the right legal documents in place.
Reference: Kiplinger’s (August 30, 2018) “Why Everyone Needs an Estate Plan”
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