A shrug. This is the expression I see most often when I ask my 30 or 40-something year-old clients about whether they have any special items to leave their loved ones in their will. A couple will look at each other, back at me, and respond, “We don’t have anything like that.” This is a palpable shift from earlier generations who have been dutiful in listing out items they consider heirlooms. Those items have been passed down from a previous generation or are valuables they’ve carefully collected and curated over their own lifetime. Most of my younger clients haven’t assigned significant personal value to things like china sets, silver, and model train collections. And while they do care about leaving a legacy, it most often is based on the concept of providing an education to their own children or grandchildren.
Is this a shift in our cultural value system towards minimalism? At a minimum, it predicts a glut of donations to community services that take donations in the coming decades – get ready, Goodwill! Younger generations have been increasingly conscious in minimizing the accumulation of belongings and prioritizing providing an education to their heirs. This is something to keep in mind as we all age. Tidying up with your estate plan in mind can make your own life easier. It can be a gift to your loved ones who someday will be charged with dealing with what you’ve accumulated once you pass away. So, how can you start?
The first step is to have conversations with your partner and family members to determine what things they plan to keep, pass on, and donate. Have these conversations during life, so that the right items can be passed on to loved ones later who want them, or donated if they are taking up too much space. This will leave less work and uncertainty once the owner passes away. It can also help align goals with values, so that resources can be focused on those goals in a way that will benefit everyone.
The next step is to have the right estate-planning tools in place to make these goals a reality. Setting up a will or trust will create a detailed plan to support your goals; education funds, passing along family heirlooms to loved ones. It can feel like a relief to have a plan – and it just might help you clear out the basement too.
About the Author
Megan is a PEPS alum, and lives in Seattle with her husband and two young sons. She is the owner of Gebhardt Law Office and her practice focuses exclusively on estate planning. She volunteers as a Guest Speaker at PEPS Groups and is an active Board member with The Valley School. She is an enthusiastic supporter of PEPS and always recommends it as the first thing to sign up for when she finds out someone is expecting.