In today’s episode, join The Legal Way and Friedman Schuman estate planning attorney, Alex Gusikoff, explore the often-overlooked topic of estate preparation for millennials and Gen Z. We discuss how these younger generations can kickstart their own estate planning journey while also assisting their parents in creating a solid estate plan. Tune in to discover the unique roles that millennials and Gen Z can play in ensuring their family’s financial security and legacy, shedding light on the important connections between generations in this critical legal process. Whether you’re a young adult navigating estate planning for the first time or a concerned child helping your parents plan for the future, this episode offers valuable insights to guide you on your path to financial well-being.
Alyson: Hey everybody, welcome back to the Legal Way podcast by Friedman Schuman. Thank you so much for tuning in today. My name is Alyson Layser. I am your host and also the director of marketing at Friedman Schuman. And today we have a guest, Alex. You guys have probably heard him on one of our other podcast episodes and we are gonna dive a little bit more into estate planning today, which always a fun conversation. Today, we are gonna be talking a little bit about what millennials and Gen Z can do with their estate plans and also how they can start preparing and helping their parents prepare as well. So really excited to dive into this. Welcome back, Alex.
Alex: Thanks for having me.
Alyson: Feel free to introduce yourself a little bit again and then we can dive into it.
Alex: Sure. So, for those who don’t know me, my name is Alex Gusikoff. I’m an associate attorney here at Friedman Schuman in the estate and trust planning department. I’m a graduate of Villanova Law School, class of 22. And I’ve been doing estate and trust planning with the department here for upwards of two, two and a half years. About nine months as a full-blown attorney. We operate in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and doing mostly estate planning, state administration, trust administration, small business issues. Yeah, that’s the bulk of what I do.
Alyson: Awesome. Awesome, awesome. Well, let’s get into it. So, we’re going to be talking about millennials and Gen Z and estate planning, which I feel like a lot of people, they don’t put those three terms together. But I felt like it was really a topic that we should really address. Well, that’s us too. Yes, that is us. Although I did learn, I thought that I was a millennial because I’m a 96 baby, but apparently I’m not. Apparently, I’m Gen Z.
Alyson: I associate as a millennial.
Alyson: That’s what I consider myself.
Alex: Well, I won’t –
Alyson: You’re a 96 baby too.
Alex: I am.
Alyson: So, what do you consider yourself?
Alex: I didn’t give it much thought, but now that you’re saying it, I don’t know. What kind of connotations? I don’t want to…it’s all positive vibes here. It’s all good. It’s all good.
Alyson: Oh, absolutely. I feel like I just, you know, like when I see the memes of millennials, I’m like, that’s me.
Alex: Sure. Absolutely. Absolutely. I have way too many 2000s memories. Like, I-
Alyson: Oh my gosh.
Alex: You know, what seasons one through five, a SpongeBob, like back of my head. Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. That’s a millennial, right?
Alyson: Yes, we’re definitely millennials. I’m just declaring that. So, as we get into this episode, so millennials, Gen Z, and estate planning. What should we know? So, take it away.
Alex: Basics, and as we were talking about a little bit before we got on, you know, a lot of, you know, this stuff is not intuitive and often, you know, people are not familiar with what an estate plan is, or, you know, what an estate even looks like, you know, it’s not even in their minds because when you’re young, like millennials and gents, you are, you’re not thinking about dying.
Alyson: Yeah. It’s just not on top of your mind. But unfortunately, you never know, right?
Alex: You never know and often, it’s important to understand a lot of these concepts for millennials and Gen Z, but also because as their parents get older and they’ll encounter some of these issues, it’s critical that they understand what issues might arise and how to deal with them and who to go to if they have questions.
Alex: So, I’m sure most people are familiar with the idea of a will. That’s the bedrock estate planning document. And unfortunately, I don’t know the exact percentage right now, but I heard some estimates. A huge percentage of young people do not have a will. I mean, a crazy, crazy majority of young people have no estate planning documents at all, meaning that if you have no will, when you die, there are laws called de-intestacy laws. Every state has them. And what that means is those laws will govern your estate is distributed when you die. Now, that could be in a way that you want it to go, or it could not. It’s how the state decides because that’s what the statutes say. So, if you want to control the disposition of your assets and a whole host of other things that we’ll get into, then it’s critical that you have an estate plan and you have a will. Now, some of the pieces that are important to understand about the estate plan is that it does more than just control your asset disposition. It doesn’t just say, when I die, my money goes to these people. Especially for young people, young families, people who are starting their careers, the pieces of the will and the other estate planning documents like power of attorney documents involve agent and fiduciary designations. One of the most important being guardianship to act as guardians if and when something happens to you and your spouse or your partner and your kids need to be taken care of, that is critical to the estate plan, especially for young people. Power of attorney documents are another important part of the estate plan because they will control, depending on the type, either your asset or your healthcare disposition in the event that the person is no longer able to make decisions on their own. So, for young people that may be named as an agent under their parents’ power of attorney or are recently told, hey, I’m designating you as my healthcare power of attorney if something happens because they recently had a health scare and you say, I don’t know what those things mean. What is that? So, principally, an agent is the person who is standing in the shoes of the person designating the power of attorney. So, for an asset power of attorney, the person who is granting the authority says, Allison, I’m giving you the power to administer all of my assets as if you were me, essentially. Now the documents will vary, and they can restrict what kind of access and control you have, but generally it says, you can control my assets, change my estate plan, move money around, sign checks for me, execute documents for me because those are critical things that will need to happen if and when I can’t do them myself. So, if I am bedridden, I no longer have mental capacity because something happens to me, I develop some kind of developmental disability or I’ve got all kinds of things, dementia, Alzheimer’s, a whole host of ailments. Those things will totally disable someone’s ability to manage their own affairs. And that’s where the agent comes in. That’s what the power of attorney is supposed to do. Now with respect to healthcare, it’s similar, except with respect to healthcare decisions. So again, those can be limited or expanded in a number of ways, but generally the healthcare agent is the person appointed to make decisions if and when you can’t make those decisions yourself. So those are usually people that are trusted, trusted family members or friends that…you can trust to make the decisions that you would make if you were able to.
Alyson: Gotcha. That is really great information and I love how you went through the basics. You gave a couple of terms and a couple of names that people should be familiar with. Are there any other terms when it comes to estate planning and wills and trusts that people or millennials and Gen Z should be familiar with as they’re kind of going through this process?
Alex: For sure. So, there’s a couple of most important fiduciaries. I guess the biggest umbrella is the term fiduciary. Really what that means is this person has a legal obligation to act on the best interest of whoever they’re representing. So they have a fiduciary duty in a similar way that an accountant would have a fiduciary duty to you as your CPA. He has to, he is representing, he’s going to do this in a professional manner and such. That person might be a fiduciary for you. In the same way, a person like an executor is a fiduciary. An executor or executrix in the old language, they used to designate based on the sex of the person. So an executor would be a male executor and an executrix would be a female. And generally, that’s the person that is named to administer the estate under the will. If the will doesn’t exist and only the intestacy laws apply. Generally, that’s called an administrator or an administratrix. The terms are basically interchangeable and in different states, they’ll use different names. Personal representative is another one that’s often used as a more gender neutral and catch-all term. So that’ll vary in different states. But executive, administrator, personal representative generally mean the fiduciary responsible for administering the estate. Another important one is the trustee. So the trustee, can be a whole host of different kinds of people or organizations or entities, but generally the trustee is the fiduciary responsible for managing and controlling a trust and the trust assets. So that talking about trusts, I guess, requires stepping back and talking about what a trust is. Because some people, young people, you might be familiar with the idea of a trust, you’ve heard of a trust, or maybe you’re even a beneficiary of a trust and you don’t know. Really what that means, you just know that you’re a beneficiary of a trust. To get a little legal wonky, the trust is separated into two pieces. You’ve got the beneficiary, who’s got what’s called equitable ownership, and you’ve got the trustee, who’s got legal ownership. The trustee essentially manages and controls all of the trust assets. They are responsible for administering the trust. The beneficiary like it sounds, gets the benefit of the trust assets in accordance with the trust document. Whatever the trust document says, they get income every so often or they get access to principal for some reason, those are the rights of the beneficiary to request of the trustee. The trustee has a responsibility to administer the trust. So those pieces are critically important to understand, especially when it comes to understanding your rights and responsibilities in each. So, frequently, people will come and say, I’m a beneficiary under this trust or I think I’m a beneficiary under this trust. I want whatever. I want money. I want to do something. Without realizing that the trust document governs what happens with the assets in the trust. It says you get money when something happens, when you turn a certain age. You can get distributions for a certain type of expense, right? For healthcare, for education, for, you know, support and maintaining the lifestyle of some kind. You know, you can put various restrictions, but, or maybe no restrictions, right? The trust document will govern. You really don’t know unless you have that document in front of you. But you know, if you don’t understand the separation between what a trustee would do and what a beneficiary can do, it could be confusing to someone who says, you know, I’m the beneficiary of this money. Why can’t I have the money? So, those are important distinctions to understand.
Alyson: Oh, for sure, for sure. And those are just very, very important to know. And obviously, I’m not an attorney, but I would have to recommend that anybody listening, if you are in this type of a situation, to either research these terms yourself to make sure that you fully understand the responsibilities and what they are, or go contact your attorney and just be like…please explain this to me, because I’m sure that you find a lot of people, they don’t even really know what the terms mean. They don’t even necessarily know like what a will or a trust is doing, what the responsibilities are with it. So, I would highly encourage anybody to do that.
Alex: And it’s, you know, often they’ll, you know, clients might have a general understanding, you know, it’s not, they’re not totally out to watch, right? They know what their documents are doing, but some of the more nuanced pieces as to what can be done or when something can be done, what’s required, what kind of authorization or in what circumstance. Those are the kinds of more nuanced complex issues that likely require an attorney to take a look at. That’s the kind of stuff that may seem daunting to someone who’s unfamiliar, who do I go to, what do I say? That’s the kind of stuff that we do all the time. So really, if you have questions, that’s what we do.
Alyson: Yeah, lawyers have your back and they can help to answer all of those questions. So those terms are kind of setting us up for the rest of the episode. And so, one of I think the motto’s of the estate department is that it’s never too soon to start planning your estate, planning your will and your trust and just really planning out, you know, that aspect of your life and what will happen, you know, after your passing. And so, like I said, we’re going to touch a little bit on millennials and Gen Z. And so, when we’re talking about this, what exactly should a millennial or a Gen Z include in their estate? Because we kind of talked about this earlier, a lot of millennials in Gen Z, they’re like, I don’t really have much. Like, what should I be putting in my estate? And it’s a very valid question. So, what would you suggest for somebody in that situation?
Alex: Well, and that’s an important point, right? I think most people, and there’s some truth to it. If I don’t have anything, what good’s my estate plan, right? And if that’s really true, you have nothing, you’re right. But very few people have nothing at all that they have to manage, right? And whether that’s financial assets, but at the same time, there’s a whole host of other types of decisions that might need to be made, like I mentioned, with prospective powers of attorney, other kinds of things that you have, right? Whether or not it’s tangible personal property, right? If you’ve got special heirlooms or pieces of jewelry that might be sentimental to you that you want to go to particular people or with respect to, and this is a more recent development, digital assets and accounts. The inclusion of digital assets in both our power of attorney documents and will documents are really, really important to allow those fiduciaries to be able to manage, whether it’s social media accounts, online banking of various kinds, access different types of subscription services, it runs the gamut of types of digital assets and accounts that are prolific in today’s society that you need to be able to manage. And without a clear path as to who can access those things and who can do what with them if and when you’re gone, then they…it’s up in the air. It’s really, it’s difficult to, you know, you’re, as I said, leaving yourself to the intestacy laws. And so that’s going to vary, you know, by state, you know, you really want to make sure that those pieces of your life that you have and want to keep control of, you know what’s going to happen to them.
Alex: I would say especially in the age, you know, something like we’re doing now, you know, podcasts, you make art, you’ve got digital media, some kind of online space that, you know, whatever, Instagram account that you’re running or anything like that, that you want to maintain control of and don’t want, you know, if you’re incapacitated, you know, somebody who shouldn’t have access, right? You’re in a feud with your brother or your sister or your parents or whatever and you say, I don’t want you to do whatever with my accounts and you don’t write anything in any particular documents, it might end up that way. So you know, there’s some pitfalls there that are important. And the other thing I’ll say is, especially with respect to young families and families with young children, it’s critically important that you provide for a clear strategy if and when something were to happen to you and your spouse or your partner. As far as taking care of your children, both from a financial perspective, but also from a custodial and guardianship perspective, familial perspective, you need to make sure that the persons that you trust the most to take care of your children are in a position to do that. And that’s an important conversation that I think a lot of people our age are not particularly privy to have, are very excited to have. It’s already not fun to think about being dead. And it’s certainly not fun to think about who’s going to take care of your kids if both you and your spouse are gone.
Alyson: Yeah. Those very hard decisions to make and hard conversations to have.
Alex: And yeah, not the most fun. It’s not the most fun. But it’s critically important and I think the one part of my job that I like a lot and I hope to take pride in is making that process seem less daunting to people. Taking some of the fear away and understanding that it’s just a part of your planning process. The same way that you take care of a number of other things in your life. You contribute to your retirement account. You plan to hopefully maybe…get a house or you know, you’re putting money away for college tuition. It’s all part of forward thinking and planning that you do because you need to and you never know what could happen. That’s the world. The world’s crazy. I mean, we just came out of what a once in a lifetime pandemic.
Alyson: I hope it’s a once in a lifetime.
Alex: Right. Sure. But you know, I think that experience woke a ton of people up. The idea that life is super precious and you never know what could happen. You need to be prepared, absolutely.
Alyson: And kind of going back to the digital assets, I was just thinking about this as you were talking. I mean, millennials and Gen Z, like this is, well, there are two generations that are growing up in a social media digital age. And so, we are bound to have even more digital assets than generations before us. And now we have influencers who are making full careers and content creators that have a lot of digital assets online. And those are very, very important things to protect and to make sure that you… And that opens up a whole other discussion too, because it’s something that’s brand new.
Alex: It’s funny, brand new, but at the same time, it’s old stuff with a brand new twist, right? Because a lot of the time, those types of online digital campaigns, the influencers, you might not know it if you’re just looking at it on the outside, but they’ve set up entities, they’ve got businesses. These are full-blown enterprises that people are running and operating, right? They’ve got LLCs, you’ve got various types of either S-corps or however they want to structure their entities. There’s different types of tax and business strategies and planning that they’ll do, and all of that is a part and critical part of your estate plan. I guess you could say akin to a family business that maybe a generation or two ago, you owned a corner store and you operated out and dad started the business and the kids worked back in the business. Dad passed away, kids kept running it. There’s that succession planning. It might not be exactly the same here in some situations, but it very well may. A lot of the time, you have a blossoming business, and it exists almost totally online. You’ve got all kinds of intellectual property rights that you want to make sure that you protect. If you’re developing new types of media, all of that intellectual property is going to be critical to…keeping control of, first of all, to make sure that you’re not unprotected. But also, from a succession perspective, if you are an influencer or you started your business and now it’s flourishing, you’re doing really well, and you imagine that this is something that you would like for your children to have an interest in and maintain if and when you’re not around, that’s a critical piece of your estate plan will be able to take care of that if and when you’re not, then you’re leaving your family unprotected. And, you know, really, I can’t stress enough how uncomfortable it is to just let intestacy take you. You know, if you want to know what happens to your state plan, go read the intestacy laws in your state, right? Google, you know, Google, intestacy is state of your choice, and, you know, it’ll lay out the rules for you. This is what happens if you don’t have a will. You know, you might like it, you might not, but if you don’t put a will, then you don’t really get to pick. So the will is the way that you determine what you want to have happen.
Alyson: Absolutely. And I mean, this is just from a personal perspective, but I mean, I know it’s not fun to talk about dying, especially being 26. I’m like, oh, I have so much life to live yet. But I will say my personal perspective is that I would much rather know that I had control over what my assets are, where my assets are going to just because I do have a family and I want to make sure that like whoever I’m giving them to like they’re able to eventually like benefit from it in a sense follow my passing and so I’m also a planner I like to prepare so that just might be that side of me but I do think that for anybody that is around our age it’s definitely something to think about because unfortunately like it is a reality like we, we won’t always be here and it’s really important to plan for that.
Alex: For sure. And I think, and I had mentioned in a previous episode, and I’ll reiterate it frequently, we try to get a good five to seven years, hopefully, out of a good estate plan. And that will depend, of course, on life changes and circumstance. But we really try to make sure that what your plan does right now suits your needs and your goals and your intent right now. And what that is at 30 or 35…is going to be different than what it is at 40, and 45, and 50. And it’s certainly going to be different than it is at 65, and 70, and 75. So at each stage of life, your plan evolves with you. And that’s, you know, it’s not simply something that you…throw together last minute because, oh my God, I’m on my deathbed and I need to have a will prepared. That’s the worst time to put your will together. Is you really don’t want to be scrambling for something that’s critically important for the most part. It can be done, circumstances, things happen, but the critical piece, if we can plan, we’d like to. And so, whether that, and really, it’s not overly complicated really when your estate’s fairly simple. If you’ve got…If you don’t have a lot and your family’s fairly small and you know what you want to have happen, then the process is not that difficult. It’s not that expensive and it’s fairly easy to set up. Once it’s established, the modifications are fairly straightforward. You’ve got a rapport, hopefully, you’ve got a good attorney that you’ve got a good relationship with that understands your family and where your goals are and what you’re trying to do. In the best-case scenario, you might have…a small team of your professional advisors that would help you as you grow, whether that be an accountant or another kind of financial advisor, an attorney that can assist as your life changes and as you grow into different stages because your plan will change and will need to change with you.
Alyson: Absolutely. And I think that that’s a comforting thought for a lot of people that if they don’t know where to start or they don’t know exactly what the process looks like or even what exactly they want, you can go to your attorney and your attorney can really help you through that process because they have a lot of experience doing this and they’ve seen a lot of different situations and a lot of different circumstances. And so even if you don’t know where you want to start with the process, you have somebody who’s trusted and has experience that can really just guide you, which is really important.
Alex: That’s the role. Every piece of what we do is client focused. We’re not a business if we don’t have clients, right? That’s too servicing. And so that part of it is so important to make sure that you understand what you want and that we’re achieving your goal. At the same time, and this might often not be considered, that you have an idea of what you want to do. And then after a discussion with your attorney or maybe you’ve had a more thoughtful conversation about, oh, geez, do I want that to happen? Wait, how do I want my assets to be administered? Some of the questions that you might never have thought of can get prompted in those conversations and those can foster some really, really important discussions and some really, in some cases, difficult discussions, but essential discussions that really, really help to establish what it is that you want and to know and have confidence that you’ve thought about it, that it’s correct. And you’re confident you’ve got everything in place.
Alyson: Yeah. And like we mentioned in the previous episode, if that were to happen and you would want to change something, you can do that. It’s not set in stone. You’re able to change it, which I think is very, just something as a millennial that I know that…brings me some comfort. Because I know my life now is not going to look like how it’s going to be when I’m 60 or whatever.
Alex: Yeah, there’s no, I ride a wheel now and it’s written in stone and I can never change it.
Alyson: No, so I think that that’s really, really important to just share with all the millennials and Gen Z out there. So, before we kind of switch gears, I do have one question for you. What would be a top tip that you would give to a millennial or Gen Z who is about to start creating their estate plan?
Alex: Hmm. A top tip. Well, I think the most important, especially in the early stages, is making sure that you, in the first go-around, making sure that you select responsible fiduciaries. There’s really nothing more important. I mean, obviously, how the assets are distributed matters a ton. But the person who’s doing that is arguably more important, if not just as important. So, making sure that you appropriately select your fiduciary is that you have confidence that the agents that you appoint as powers of attorney, that the executors that you name to administer your estate are person or in guardians that you name to care for your children. Those are persons that you trust deeply that are responsible and that are hopefully familiar with what it is that you’re doing and what your plan is so that if and when the need arises, there’s a seamless transition and they understand their role and there’s no hiccups.
Alyson: That’s a great, great tip. I love it. So, to switch gears, there is kind of another side to estate planning when it comes to millennial and Gen Z and that is kind of being involved in their parents estate plan because they might be a beneficiary, they might be a power of attorney. So can you dive into that a little bit deeper and kind of share like maybe what a millennial or Gen Z should know in that type of a situation, any tips that you would give somebody who is a millennial urgency, who is working with their parents on their estate plan, all that type of stuff.
Alex: Yeah, I think. A lot of what we discussed kind of gives a good overview as to what everything is and how the different terms, what the terms mean and how the different responsibilities are allocated. But what’s most important, and I think especially if you’re lucky enough to have a good relationship with your parents, they’re willing to share their estate plan, that’s part of your family dynamic that you understand how things are situated, how the assets are situated who the named fiduciaries are, if you’re a power of attorney, named for your mother or father, and you know that they have certain wishes as to how they want their healthcare treatment to be administered. You’re familiar with what their estate plan looks like or how they would like the different assets to be titled if and when they’re not able to do so themselves and if you’re in the position as agent to do that for them. It’s important to understand who their professionals are, especially if, particularly with respect to your estate planning documents, if mom passes, you want to know where the will is, you want to know where to find it, right?
Alyson: That’s really important. Yes, yes, you. You want to know where it is. So, a lot of those things are important.
Alex: And a lot of that’s information sharing, which, of course, depending on the family dynamics, will be different and can be difficult. And that’s, you know, unfortunately what makes some part of the estate planning and the administration difficult in some cases is that not every family dynamic is, you know, wonderful. And so that creates some complications. But to the extent that you can understand and have a grasp on what your role is, you know, if you have one and your parents are sharing that with you and how you will fulfill that. And again, if you have questions, it’s important to address those beforehand. If you’re named as the executor of your parents’ estate and they say, okay, we’ve got this parcel of real estate and these accounts over here, and you’re the person responsible, and you have no idea what you’re doing. You’ve never dealt with these things before, or you’re totally clueless. That’s okay. I mean, that’s totally fine. That’s exactly what…I feel like most people would be in that. So, definitely not a lot. That’s totally fine. That’s exactly what we’re here for. And so, having those conversations early, especially if you’ve got, again, as I said, that good relationship to make sure that all the information is available and that there’s no lapses in either any of their planning documents, as we’ve discussed on a prior episode. And we didn’t really touch on too much today. But with respect to the beneficiary designations on a whole host of different types of documents, whether that’s on life insurance policies or annuities, perhaps retirement benefits, IRAs and 401Ks of all kinds, there are a number of different types of asset dispositions that you might not be familiar with. It’s very possible young people, people our age. I’ve never heard of a 529 account. I don’t know what a 401k is. What’s the difference between a Roth IRA and a, you know, I don’t know. There’s a lot of terms. Yeah. It’s just, there’s a whole, yeah, it’s- And it can be overwhelming. It’s a vocab soup. There’s a lot of acronyms. That’s a good way to put it. There’s all kinds of stuff. And so, and it can be daunting. So, I think, you know, a lot of transparency and information sharing is probably one of the best things that you can do to make sure that you’ve got your role secured and you’re familiar with the estate plan, either it’s of your parents or if your spouse or your brothers and sisters, family, whatever your role is in that plan, having the most information you can and asking questions early and often so that you’re sure of what it is you need to do and what it is they’re asking you to do in fulfilling that role.
Alyson: Gotcha, gotcha. And so, we kind of talked about roles a little bit. You can be a beneficiary, you could be a trustee, you could be an executor, you could be power of attorney. Are there any other responsibilities or roles that somebody could be named for and will?
Alex: That’s a good question. There are a few. They come up in a couple more nuanced situations. The first one that comes to mind is something called a trust protector. That’s, I guess I could say the trustee’s trustee a little bit. So, you can change the types of powers the trust protector might have, but generally they’re the watchman for the trustee to make sure the trustee is doing what they’re supposed to do. So, like I said, trustees have a fiduciary duty, an obligation to the beneficiary to administer the trust in the way that it’s supposed to be administered. If they’re not doing that…well, that’s a problem. That’s a breach and there’s potentially actions the beneficiary could take. But if the beneficiary has no idea or if they’re not savvy in the particular types of things that are going on in the trust or for whatever reason they’re unfamiliar, the trust protector is a person that would be tasked with overseeing the trustee and making sure that they administer the trust in conformity with the trust agreement. That’s not always used fairly infrequent. More often than not, that will be in more complicated business planning when perhaps you have one named heir as the primary trustee that’s managing, say, the business trust or the real estate, and you wanna make sure that that person is not doing anything they shouldn’t be doing because the other family members might be beneficiaries, but maybe they don’t know as much about the business as the trustee. So, if there’s no one watching, who knows? That’s the danger. So, that’s the truck protector’s role generally. I think that’s the one that comes to mind first and foremost. I would say it’s not a different role, but naming successor fiduciaries. It’s often something that people don’t consider when naming fiduciaries. They think, okay, I know who I want to administer my estate. I know who I want my agent to be. I’m going to name those people and I’m good. And then the lawyer comes in and brings the bad news and says, OK, great. What happens when those people are dead? Ugh. What do you mean? They’re younger than me. Why would that happen? OK, what happened? There’s a million different things that could happen. You’re 35. I don’t anticipate your life expectancy. You’re going to be hopefully living for a long, long time. But who knows? Right? So, you want to name your brother, your child, your sister, your cousin, they’re going to administer your estate. What happens when they’re not around? Who’s the person that’s going to succeed them? So that’s another role that I would say is often overlooked and is just as critical is naming your successor fiduciaries because as much as you don’t want to think about it, anything can happen. The kind of morbid, I guess, estate planning. before we walk out of here, the two of you are going to sign this document, you’re going to walk out the office, and you’re both going to get hit by the bus. What happens then?
Alyson: Oh my gosh, that would be terrible.
Alex: Right, right. Exactly. We have to think about all the worst stuff. For you, of course. That’s the job.
Alyson: And it is a lot to think about. I mean, whether you are trying to plan your own estate or you’re also trying to support and learn what your responsibility will be if you are part of somebody else’s estate, it can be pretty overwhelming, I think. And that’s why I’m really glad that we’re having this conversation because it doesn’t have to be super overwhelming when you have a trusted attorney that can help to guide you through the whole process.
Alex: For sure. For sure, that’s the role and that’s the most enjoyable part of the job really is when people come in and say, wow, I thought this was going to be so daunting or I was nervous about what I had to do. I didn’t know where I had to go. I had to get papers and sign things. I said, it’s okay. This is what we did. Yeah. Here’s the process. That’s the last thing, especially from a state administration perspective. When a family member dies. The last thing you want to be thinking about if you’re the person responsible is, geez, how do I administer this estate? I don’t know how to deal with all of their stuff. I don’t know who to go to. You’re distraught. I mean, you’ve just lost a family member and now you have to do all this other stuff. Having someone there that you can trust to help you guide through the process is of critical importance.
Alyson: Absolutely. That’s why it pays to be a planner and prepared. In a lot of instances. So, before we wrap up, is there anything else that you would want to share? Any other details or tips to give to a millennial or Gen Z who is starting to kind of learn what their role would be in their parents or a family member’s estate plan? Or anything that they can do to even help support that family member or parent as they are creating their estate plan and going through that process?
Alex: Right, well, I would say one, you know, an important piece of that, especially as your parents age and, you know, if you’re lucky enough to, you know, have a good family dynamic and you’re familiar with their plan, that, you know, you make sure that if some, you know, different life events happen, that they’re updated, right? That their plans are updated. And of course, that doesn’t mean, you know, you telling them what to do at all. It simply means you saying, hey, mom and dad, you know, I had another kid. You have two grandkids now or something happened to your daughter, sister, or something happened. You need to change your successor fiduciary. You need to change your beneficiary designation on your retirement account because I’ve established a trust for my kids. If you’re going to give your grandkids some money, you need to do it this way. So, here’s how we’re going to do that. Or, hey, my kids are grown now. And right there, they’re out of college. They don’t need this trust that you’ve got. So, I know that you named me as the trustee for the trust that you were gonna establish for them after you passed. Well, it turns out we don’t need to do that anymore. So, you can blow all that up and do whatever you want with it, right? A lot of those conversations are important. So, it’s really just keeping tabs on when life events change and you’re familiar and know that that’s an important piece of your parents estate plan or grandparents, whatever, that they’re up to date and that the documents are up to date. Because it’s very possible, especially as people age, they want to change their documents, they want to do all of that, but they either forget, they say they want to and then put it off and then don’t do it. That happens all the time, right? Because it’s really easy to say, I don’t want to think about that right now. I don’t want to think about dying. I don’t want to think about that. Yeah, I’ll think about that tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, forever.
Alyson: And five years down the road, you’re like, man…
Alex: I really should have changed that. Yeah, exactly. And so, I think, man, don’t pester him, but a little bit.
Alyson: Well, I really liked the questions that you brought up because those were really great examples of questions that a millennial or Gen Z could ask a family member, a parent, do you have any other general questions that maybe you would recommend that a millennial or a Gen Z ask their family members as they’re going through that process just to make sure that either they understand or they’re aware of what their role is in the estate?
Alex: Yeah. I think those conversations are important to have. And of course, as I’ve mentioned countless times, the family dynamics will dictate. Yeah, absolutely. But…if you’re in a position where you’re familiar with your parents estate plan, you know your role or what they want your role to be, then familiarizing yourself with their asset disposition, as comfortable as they are with that. If they’ve got various accounts or perhaps they’ve got real estate or different types of intangible property, even if they’ve got copyrights, we’re talking about social media and whatnot. Just because they’re older doesn’t mean they don’t have all the media presence. Someone’s podcasting at 65 and he’s making a business and that’s part of the state plan.
Alyson: They are like 86-year-old TikTokers.
Alex: Absolutely. Are you kidding? Of all ages, they’re killing it online. It’s important that we understand what encompasses that estate. I would say a lot of the times real estate, if they own out of state real estate, or they’ve got something like a timeshare somewhere or they own a condo down in some other state that you’re unfamiliar with, that you need to become familiar with. And I especially say that with respect to real estate because there’s something called ancillary probate for real estate. So generally, the probate estate is administered in the state where the decedent lived and died, where they were when they died. So, I live in Pennsylvania. If I die in Pennsylvania, I’m going to be probating in Pennsylvania. So, Pennsylvania law will apply and that’s how those, my assets will be governed that way. But if I own a piece of real estate in Florida, and it’s not in some other protected type of trust or something that we could do, then it’ll have to be administered by ancillary probate in Florida. So, you know, there’s and that, you know, depending on where it is and in what kind of state, that could be really onerous. You know, it could be a real pain in the butt to have to deal with some ancillary piece of real estate. And, you know, it could be something really nice. It could be something that you actually don’t want at all. Right. What if, you know, they owned a small lot somewhere that, you know, is next to worthless, but it’s part of the estate and you’ve got to go and dealing with that instead of, and discovering that at a later date rather than being familiar with it and having a plan to deal with it.
Alyson: Yeah, awesome. That’s really, really great information. And now I know, I definitely have some questions that I even wanna ask my own parents. Just that like, like I said, I’m a planner. I like to be prepared. Just so that I know I like having that information. So, I guess I would encourage people listening if you were in that type of a situation. It never hurts to ask the question just to gain clarity or just to understand even a little bit better. So, before we wrap up, is there anything else that you would like to share on this topic?
Alex: Well, I guess there’s one fun piece that I thought that I’m thinking of and it’s, you know because I had seen some different trends and how people, and it has to do with collectibles and personal property. Okay. And it’s interesting because for the most part, it’s kind of what people think of when they think of like an estate sale, right? Like they go into your house and they’re like- That’s the first thing that popped into my head when you mentioned. You walk into somebody’s house, they’ve got all kinds of stuff and they’re clearing it out and they say, okay, how much do you want for the old furniture and the china, whatever? I think it’s a growing trend more recently in a whole different number of avenues, whether it’s, I don’t know, collectibles of all kinds with appreciating value. Things are becoming more and more valuable, whether if it’s trading cards or watches, you’ve got different types of tangible personal property that’s got real value in it, but the value you might not be familiar with, or maybe you don’t know exactly how much it’s worth, or the value fluctuates all the time, because of what kind of an asset it is. And it’s important that you know where those things are going, if and when you pass, because if you don’t, that could be a real sticking point for your family. It’s important if you’ve got, I don’t know. If you got $50,000 in Pokemon cards, you want to make sure you know where they are, that they’re included in your will, because if they find them under your bed, it’s going to be a nightmare for your family to deal with. Oh yeah. A GPS tracker. Exactly. So that’s just, I read articles talking to friends, that’s one up and coming piece that I don’t think was really at the forefront of people’s minds, but as those different things. And I won’t go off onto the spiel about different kinds of digital collectibles, you know, I know there’s some disparaging thoughts about that. But yeah, that’s just one super interesting kind of up and coming issue that I’ve been thinking about and dealing with a couple of different. So, yeah, that’s been very interesting as of late.
Alyson: Super interesting. Definitely something to keep in mind if you’re planning your estate. Well, thank you again, Alex, so much for joining us. This was super fun and very informative. And I’m so excited for everybody to be able to listen to this episode and have some takeaways that they can apply to their own estate plan. So, thank you everybody so much for joining us and we will be back very soon.