Gen-Xers: We Aren’t Kids Anymore

Generation X includes people born between 1965 and 1980.  The average age of my fellow Gen-Xers is now over 50.  While we are undoubtedly still as cool as ever, we are also not kids anymore.  If you are over 50, it’s a good idea to start thinking about estate planning.  No shaming here, but I know far too many in Gen X either don’t have an estate plan or if you do, it may have been created in the last century. 

A friend and fellow Gen-Xer passed away unexpectedly earlier this year.  This person was full of life, and death was probably the furthest thing from their mind.  I recently learned that they died intestate – the fancy legal word for not having a will – and now their family is dealing with these extra burdens in the midst of their grief. 

Gen-X, we are not going to live forever.  While we continue to live our lives to the fullest, we need to get a few things in order first.  Here are some tips to get you started:

1.  At the very least, create a will.  This document outlines your wishes for how your assets will be distributed after you pass away.  It’s important to have a will to ensure your wishes are carried out because if you pass away without a will, state laws will determine what happens with your assets.

2.  Better still, consider creating a trust.  A trust can help protect your assets and provide for your loved ones after you’re gone, especially ones who may need extra care, like children or aging parents.  It can also help avoid probate.

3.  Designate beneficiaries.  Make sure you have named beneficiaries for any retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and other assets that allow you to name a beneficiary. This ensures that these assets go directly to the people you want them to go to.  While naming beneficiaries alone will not care for your estate planning needs, it is a good start and something people often overlook.

4. Plan for incapacity.  Not to go on about it, but we are getting older.  Consider setting up a durable power of attorney and a healthcare directive in case you become incapacitated and can no longer make decisions for yourself. 

5. Get regular check-ups.  Regular checkups are good for your physical health and your estate plan. I recommend you to review and update your estate plan regularly to make sure it still reflects your wishes and any changes in your life circumstances.  The big life changes that prompt revisiting your estate plan are obvious:  births, deaths, marriage, and divorce.  Even if life has been relatively calm, I recommend that if you have a birthday and your new age now ends in a 0 or a 5, use that as your prompt to take a peek at your estate plan and update it.