by Phil Yacuboski
It might be a morbid topic to some, but a necessary one about which to have a frank discussion around the dinner table – your will. A recent study by caring.com says more than half of Americans don’t have a will and when it comes to millennials – people ages 18 to 36 – the number jumps to 78 percent.
“If you don’t have a spouse or a family, you need a will to determine what’s going to happen to your assets after you pass away,” said N. Brian Cavery, a Shickshinny attorney and co-author of the book Estate Planning for Dummies.
He advised speaking to a lawyer, especially if you have questions regarding the subject.
“That will help you make the best decisions about what your needs may be,” he explained, adding that lawyers typically are trained to see problems that others may not see. “You really need to have a will to make sure what you have goes where you want it to go.”
The study found that younger people tend to think they have fewer assets than older people; 29 percent of those surveyed feel they don’t have “anything to leave anyone.”
“Many millennials think that it’s something for older people to do or people that they think have enough money to warrant having an estate plan,” he said. “The problem with that kind of thinking is that everyone has an estate to one degree or another whether it’s a couple of hundred dollars or a couple of million dollars.”
If you die without a will, the state of Pennsylvania has what are known as “intestate” laws, meaning the laws of Intestate Succession will look over the how the assets are distributed. The laws are set up to protect a spouse or children, should one die without a will.
“They may inherit those assets if there’s no will, but if they are minors, they won’t come into control of those assets until they become 18 or until a guardian is appointed to manage those assets,” he said. “You can make a provision that will simply protect them by having a will that appoints them as a guardian of their estate.”
It’s rare that assets are left entirely to the Commonwealth.
In the case of young people who may have a business arraignment, many of those agreements already have documents in place in case of a death.
“If they set up and it takes off and they haven’t updated their business documents, then it’s ultimately doing to fall back on their estate documents,” Caverly said, “with the will being the primary of all of those documents.”
Other factors could also play into the decision of not having a will.
“There are a significant number of millennials who will not want what they want to leave at the time of their death to go to their parents who would be first in line for a number of reasons,” said Jerry Chariton, a Wilkes-Barre attorney, who specializes in wills and estate planning. “Their parents could be elderly or their parents might not need the money or their parents could be candidates for nursing home care and they would have to spend the money before they qualified for Medicaid assistance.”
He also said questions could also arise if someone has a partner, but isn’t married.
“There are a whole host of people who should consult with an attorney,” he said.
Chariton said if there’s home ownership involved and other assets, it would mean more legal costs because of its trip through the court system.
The caring.com study also asked whether people have a power of attorney over their health care, which is more common than a living will or trust. The study found 83 percent of those older than 72 have a power of attorney in place while the number is half that when it comes to millennials.