Millennials & Generation Z: The Next Estate Planning Demographic

Generational differences play a big part in the construction of estate planning strategies, as well as how attorneys should communicate the importance of those strategies to potential clients. In regard to younger generations, much has already been said about Millennials. But, quietly emerging into the marketplace is another demographic—Generation Z. If estate planners are going to continue to evolve their practices in terms of marketing their services to potential clients, then learning about this generation is key.

Who is Generation Z?

Generation Z, also known as Gen Z, iGen, and Centennials, were born between 1996 and 2010, with the eldest already graduating from college. As a group, they are technologically tuned-in, socially aware and self-assured.

Seeing their parents’ net worth decreased by 45%, the Great Recession has had a significant impact on Gen Zers’ views of finances. Coupled with watching their older Millennial siblings trying to cope with student debt problems, one in five Gen Zers say debt should be avoided at all costs.

A recent study, conducted in 2016 by The Center for Generational Kinetics, gives us additional insight into who Gen Zers are:

Extreme Techies. As the most tech-savvy generation to date, many Gen Zers learned how to use a smartphone before learning to speak full sentences. With 52% of Gen Zers turning to YouTube and social media for research assignments and 33% watching lessons online, Gen Zers have used technology to become adept researchers who know how to self-educate.

Mature and pragmatic. Growing up during economically and politically turbulent times, these teens and young adults are already financially pragmatic. In fact, 12% are currently setting aside savings for retirement! In regard to how they will fund their retirement: 52% plan on using personal savings, 28% will continue to work after retirement, and 26% believe they will receive government assistance. Gen Zers also have strong opinions on debt with 29% saying they will only take out loans or credit cards for a few select items and 23% believing that debt of any kind should be avoided at all costs.

Entrepreneurial. With modern day resources at their fingertips, Gen Zers are primed to be the most entrepreneurial generation yet, with more than 72% hoping to own their own business someday and 60% hoping to turn their hobbies into full-time jobs.

Compassionate. Gen Zers are becoming passionate humanitarians and environmentalists. Already, 36% of Gen Zers are currently volunteering with local nonprofits and 76% are concerned how human activity is negatively impacting the planet.

How attorneys can start adapting estate planning strategies to fit Gen Zers needs and wants:

Embrace legal technology. The days of in-person meetings and “I’ll have that to you in three business days” is over. If you want to communicate and interact with Gen Zers, then you’ll have to take your practice online. Consider offering virtual consultations, educate them with bite-sized blog posts, and implement legal technology that will streamline your drafting process.

Prioritize retirement and wealth creation planning. It’s clear that financial security is already on their minds. Appeal to their financial savvy mindset by promoting retirement and wealth creation planning.

Offer business planning services. If Gen Zers follow their hearts, then many may be starting their own businesses in just a few short years. Consider expanding your legal services to include business planning.

Highlight charitable planning. Support Gen Zers’ charitable mindset by offering and promoting charitable planning services.

Ramp up your referral network. With most Gen Zers getting financial advice from their parents, and 48% saying they consult a family member or friend before they make a purchase, it’s clear that estate planners will need to target potential Gen Z clients through their parents, friends and other professionals.

Estate planning basics

Estate planning is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. It is a customized plan designed to best protect each client and their loved ones. Most estate plans should include some or all of the following components:

Will: A will (sometimes referred to as a last will and testament) is a written document used to appoint a personal representative (or executor) to handle the person’s affairs upon his or her death, explain how his or her property and money are to be distributed, and appoint a guardian to care for minor or dependent children.

Pour-Over Will: A special type of will in which the person’s trust is named as his or her beneficiary. This document is used in case the client has created a trust but did not fully fund (i.e. transfer or retitle assets) prior to death. The pour-over will is admitted to the probate court, and everything is transferred to the trust through the probate proceedings.

Revocable Living Trust: While there are many different types of trusts, a revocable living trust is often the foundation of an estate plan. A revocable living trust is a written agreement in which a trustee is appointed to hold title to and manage property for the benefit of one or more beneficiaries. In many instances, the client will serve as the initial trustee and primary beneficiary. Upon the client’s incapacity, the trust property will be managed by a nominated successor trustee for the benefit of such client with little interruption and no court involvement. Upon death, the successor trustee manages and distributes the assets according to the trust’s terms.

Financial Power of Attorney: A written instrument in which the client has named an individual to act on his or her behalf in financial affairs (e.g., signing a deed, opening a bank account, signing checks, filing taxes, etc.). There are several different types of financial powers of attorney depending upon the client’s needs and the types of transactions that might be required.

Medical Power of Attorney: This document allows the client to nominate an individual to make medical decisions on his or her behalf in the event he or she becomes incapacitated or otherwise unable to communicate. This power only goes into effect upon the inability of the client to communicate.

What If No Planning Has Been Done or Was Done Incorrectly?

If no estate planning has been done, the court will have to be involved. In the event the client becomes incapacitated, the family will have to petition the court to appoint a person to make financial decisions on the client’s behalf. The court will also have to appoint an individual to make medical decisions for the client. Because the client is incapacitated, he or she will have no way of communicating who he or she would like in those roles. The judge will have to make a determination based on investigations and the testimony of the interested parties in a very public proceeding–which may or may not reflect your client’s actual wishes.

If the client dies without an estate plan, the client’s property and financial assets will be distributed through the probate process to his or her family based upon the state’s intestacy statute. In many cases, this distribution scheme is contrary to what the client would have wanted. In addition, the probate process can be time-consuming, expensive, and public.

Probate may also be required if your client has a will or if they have a trust that was not completely “funded” (assets were not properly transferred to the trust or retitled in the name of the trust). The only difference is that the will determines who receives the assets rather than state law.