By Iffy Ibekwe • May 10, 2019•Ms. JD, Writers in Residence, Careers, Other Career Issues, Issues, Balancing Private and Professional Life, Other Issues, Features, •Myths & Truths
Millennial Lawyers are Powerful.
I can say that because I too am a millennial lawyer. We are highly educated (sometimes in the school of hard knocks), talented, committed, innovative and ready to take on any challenge head-on. Watch out!
The world is changing for women and millennials are leading the way for future generations:
- Around 72% of millennial women are in the workforce. [i]
- Although a gender pay gap still exists but is narrowing. [ii]
- More than 28% of millennial women start a business because they see an opportunity. [iii]
- Millennial women are more likely to have bachelor degrees than their male counterparts. [iv]
Millennial Lawyers, the World is Our Oyster!
This means that you are grasping opportunities that didn’t exist for previous generations. Because you have more access to information, it is paramount that you use this knowledge to prepare for your future. Not only do you need long and short-term goals (even a vision board), but you need an effective will and other legal documents. By having a legal plan in place, you’ll not only protect everything that you’ve achieved but also prepare for your future and your loved ones—just in case.
If you’re like most millennial women, you may be thinking that setting up a will, trust or other legal document is way too complicated or for the wealthy. I agree that it can be daunting, but once you have a better understanding of all the legal components involved in "estate planning," you’ll be more equipped to design your very own estate plan.
Check Out These Estate Planning Tools:
- Last Will and Testament - A will is a legal document that describes how you want all of your personal stuff distributed when you die. It includes information about the person you'd want to close up your life (executor of your estate). You can also select who you would want to inherit your Louboutins or other personal items. And, if you have kids, you can pick your favorite person to be the guardian for your children.
- Caring for a Minor Child - A will doesn't go into effect until you die. So, some people choose to create a stand-alone guardianship designation for their child, which can be triggered by incapacitation rather than death. As the parent, you designate your preferences for someone to take care of your child’s physical body. You can also select someone to take care of any money you leave for your child. The same person or two different people can fill the roles. You can also set up a minor’s power of attorney for times when you go out of town without your child. This allows your designated caregiver access to your child’s records and authority to make decisions as a short-term guardian.
- Financial Power of Attorney - This document states that an individual is, by proxy, authorized to act on your behalf in a limited or general financial capacity. The delegated powers may be effective immediately or if you become incapacitated. Use caution when selecting your agent because he or she may have access to your bank accounts and other property and could cause harm to you if he or she is shady.
- Medical Power of Attorney - A medical power of attorney authorizes a person to make medical decisions on your behalf when you are unable to do so. This person acts as an agent and his or her role is to make medical decisions in your best interest.
- HIPAA Directive - This document allows hospitals or physicians to give your protected personal health information to people who you allow to receive such information. Just think about the form you fill out at the dentist or doctor's office.
- Digital Assets - Typically, digital assets include images or multimedia like presentations, emails, photos, websites, etc. They can also include social media accounts like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Make sure you plan for the end of your digital footprint by letting your loved ones know--through proper documentation--how you want your assets closed down.
- Beneficiary Designations - By designating a beneficiary, you decide the winner of all of your life's bounty! I mean, you decide who you’d like to receive your assets (payments, premiums, etc.) when you die. These kinds of designations are common with life insurance companies, banks, retirement funds, etc. Primary beneficiaries inherit property first, and contingent beneficiaries inherit if the primary is not available. Unlike in a will, the financial institution pays out the account when you die aka "payable on death" (POD). When someone dies and has a POD account, the recipient gets fast access to the funds without the funds having to pass through a court process (probate).
- Trust - A trust is a fancy name for an account that may not have your name on it. A trust establishes a fiduciary relationship where you (the trustor) put assets into a trust for others (beneficiaries). It is managed by a trustee whose role is to make that your beneficiaries gain access to the property within the trust. What can you retitle to your trust? A house, life insurance, investment accounts, and other property.
- Pet Trust - You can use different types of pet trusts to care for your beloved pet when you die. But, setting one up can be complicated. Your pet trust can be set up to take effect immediately while you’re alive. This is called a living trust. Or, it can become effective when you die and a court decides that the trust is valid (testamentary pet trust). One benefit of a living trust is that this type of trust can help you care for your pet if you’re disabled and unable to care for them yourself. You have to kick the bucket for a testamentary trust to kick in.
As you can see, setting up a will, trust, or other legal documents is work. You must consider many factors when developing your "just in case" plan. The good news is that you don’t have to create the documents all by yourself in order to be protected. You should hire an experienced estate planning attorney to help you. After all, you’re a millennial lawyer and you’ve worked hard to get where you are. So, cover your assets!
[i] Millennial life: How Young Adulthood Today Compares with Prior Generations by Kristen Bialik and Richard Fry, Pew Research Center, February 14, 2019.
[ii] The Narrowing, but Persistent, Gender Gap in Pay by Nikki Graf, Anna Brown, and Eileen Patten, Pew Research Center, March 22, 2019.
[iii] The Megaphone Of Main Street: Women's Entrepreneurship, Spring 2018, SCORE, April 23, 2018.
[iv] Today’s Young Workers are More Likely Than Ever to Have a Bachelor’s Degree by Nikki Graf, Pew Research Center, May 16, 2017.