Estate Planning

US History’s Largest Wealth Transfer

In all of human history, there has never been a financial time like this one. Baby boomers preparing to pass on their legacies through estate plans put America on the brink of the largest ever transfer of wealth. Over the next 25 years, projections estimate 68.4 trillion dollars will be in motion to create an unprecedented transfer of generational wealth. 

The post-WWII economic environment allowed the growth of assets during decades of economic prosperity. Rising real estate values, stock markets, and favorable tax policies contributed to the baby boomers’ ability to aggregate significant wealth. These 45 million households will see their generational wealth pass to Generation X and millennial inheritors, dramatically shifting the landscape of American wealth management.

Baby boomers collectively hold thirty to forty trillion in assets, controlling roughly seventy percent of all disposable income. While families of already established generational wealth may have plans in place, much of the upcoming wealth transfer hails from self-made men and women who have avoided discussing estate plans and family fortunes with their heirs. Predictions are that Gen X will inherit about 57 percent of these assets, with millennials inheriting the rest. Yet the mechanisms for inheritance through sound estate planning are missing in many of these family systems.

Wealth management groups and estate planning attorneys posit that inheritors will needlessly lose much of their wealth due to parents who failed to develop comprehensive end-of-life plans. On the other side of the equation, younger generation inheritors must ramp up their knowledge about asset management to grow their inheritance for future generations.

Generation X and millennials have vastly different financial experiences and attitudes towards money than their parents. On average, while millennials are the highest-earning generation, they have significantly less money, controlling just 4.6 percent of US wealth in 2021. They have lower levels of financial literacy, are less likely to own a home, and have less interest in investing in the stock market. They also tend to have higher debt after experiencing two recessions before the age of 40, cost of living increases that outpaced wages, and increasing college tuition and vehicle loans.

These younger generations will also change the landscape of financial planning and management. Financial firms will have to bridge the gap of immediate expectation with a generation raised in an era of enormous technological transformation. Smart technology can provide an incrementally higher return on investment through transaction speed alone. Digital financial tools and apps will be the norm, including robot-advisors as a convenience for investing.

Are these younger generations ready to be stewards of generational wealth? Will they see the need to protect this wealth through comprehensive estate planning? To better protect their inheritors’ interests, baby boomer parents can include their children in estate planning goals. The older generation can implement or update an existing plan and guide their inheritors to protect from squandering assets.

Some family systems may find the surest and safest way to protect generational wealth is via trusts. Both revocable and irrevocable trusts can create structure and limit new inheritors’ access to assets. A trust can grow wealth and also save on taxes. The objectives and conditions of a family trust are wide-ranging and easily tailored to a family’s specific needs. 

Charitable trusts and charitable remainder trusts can generate income for heirs while protecting assets and favorable tax consequences. There are also asset-protection trusts, testamentary trusts, and special needs trusts. A qualified estate planning attorney will assess the best trust type(s) for you and your family based on your unique set of parameters. With trillions of inheritable dollars in motion over the next twenty-five years in America, proactive estate planning is key to securing generational wealth for your family. We hope you found this article helpful. If you have questions or would like to discuss your personal situation, please don’t hesitate to contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Estate Planning

How to Plan the Estate for an Unmarried Couple

As a result of record levels of divorces and widows among older Americans, many new partnerships have emerged. The US Census Bureau reports that more than half of all older adults have only married once, opting to stay legally single in their future relationships. Cohabitating can have unforeseen and unintended consequences without a legally recognized civil union, marriage, or domestic partnership certificate. 

For instance, your assets are not mutually inheritable without careful estate planning that includes a “living together contract.” This contract type can be specific and, as an example, cover one transaction, such as purchasing a new home. The contract can also encompass every aspect of your property and finances, including asset distribution in the event of incapacitation, death, or breakup.

Many believe they can address domestic decision-making, such as permissions for owning pets, entertaining guests, even including minor tasks like who will do the dishes in a casual contract, but it is unlikely to be enforced by the courts. If you’re an unmarried couple, it is safer to draw up a comprehensive agreement, enforceable by the courts, that will see you through your lives together. However, you won’t want to co-mingle personal and financial clauses in a single contract as it may render the agreement unenforceable, negating the importance of the contract’s financial clauses. 

For estate planning purposes, a comprehensive living together agreement includes all assets and property owned before the relationship and another for any acquisitions during the relationship. The property and asset division is much like a prenuptial agreement. Remember, joint obligations to a mortgage company or a landlord do not create a contractual relationship or entitle you to a property settlement in the event of death or the parting of ways. With non-marital agreements, each partner should also have a valid will for the state in which they live.

A living together contract often includes rules regarding gifts received, living expenses, property purchases, inheritable rights, and a method for dispute resolution that may arise later, typically through mediation. Having a living together agreement in writing can avoid a host of future legal issues and can be developed in the spirit of two fair-minded individuals clarifying the understanding of a partnership.

Many older Americans prefer not to remarry as it can have consequences to social security income, pension benefit awards, alimony (as part of a divorce settlement), tax consequences, and rights of survivorship. A new spouse’s income may disqualify a child for college financial aid or, in the case of a disabled child, impact the eligibility for government assistance programs.

Because many seniors and near seniors live together in non-legally recognized ways, estate planning can create challenges when partners want to provide for the other after their death.

A legally binding living together contract must work in concert with existing plans for already named heirs. A qualified estate planning attorney can draw up this contract and make necessary changes to current estate plans to avoid future legal conflicts. Like all estate planning documents, the regular review of its content to account for major life changes or preferences is crucial. If you plan to make substantive changes, it is best to be open with your partner and any adult children.

Avoid the possibility of personal and family conflict through open communication channels and mutual understanding. A newer, unmarried partner of a beloved parent may provoke suspicion of intent by adult children. Cohabitating is becoming more popular; however, as states adjudicate separations and inheritance, there is much to consider about planning property and asset control. To protect and provide for your partner and your adult children, consult an estate planning attorney about a living together contract in conjunction with your estate plan to ensure your documents reflect your wishes and are legally enforceable. We hope you found this article helpful. If you have questions or would like to discuss your personal situation, please don’t hesitate to contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.