Estate plans are frequently designed to create a legacy that extends beyond a single generation. For this reason, if you are creating an estate plan, you may wish to consider the characteristics of the younger generations—particularly Gen Z—to ensure your estate planning goals are met.
Who Is Gen Z?
Gen Z comprises individuals born between 1997 and 2012. They are developing into a well-educated and racially diverse generation. This generation is pragmatic, financially sophisticated, debt averse, charitably inclined, and entrepreneurial.
Technology has been a reigning force in Gen Z’s development. They are the first generation to grow up with smart phones and social media in daily life. YouTube, TikTok and videos in general are Gen Z’s preferred learning platform. Their zealous use of technology allows Gen Z to increase their financial sophistication.
Despite their young age, many are saving for retirement and living frugally. The pandemic increased their financial pragmatism, motivating them to concentrate on finances and planning. The socioeconomic volatility of recent decades has also greatly shaped Gen Z’s view on risk. Having witnessed catastrophic world events, such as terrorism, wars, and recession, Gen Zers are adopting a more conservative view of investment and debt.
Despite Gen Z’s sophistication, few feel confident about their financial knowledge, particularly on credit, mortgages, and student loans. The volume of information available on their favored internet platforms can be misleading and overwhelming. Because of this, Gen Z may be more vulnerable to fad investments and misinformation.
Gen Z is passionate about work and independent wealth. Many earn money through freelance and part-time work. They value independent work environments and hope to start their own businesses. They also appear to be more charitably inclined than prior generations, preferring everyday intentional acts of charity.
What Should You Consider When Planning For A Gen Z Beneficiary?
These characteristics of Gen Z are particularly informative if you are looking to leave funds to the younger generation. As trusts lasting beyond one generation are popular, there is value in intentionally addressing these generations in your plan.
In recognition of Gen Z’s financial sophistication and pragmatism, you may wish to leave assets in a discretionary lifetime trust, which gives the trustee authority to determine whether a distribution will be in the beneficiary’s best interest. This type of trust can also achieve tax and asset protection planning that may appeal to Gen Z as they age. It can be drafted to include carefully crafted incentive provisions to support a Gen Z beneficiary’s goals and values, while ensuring that the trust assets are preserved and used effectively to further these goals.
Incentive provisions may influence a Gen Z beneficiary to achieve your desired positive outcomes. For example, since many members of Gen Z hope to start their own businesses, you can include provisions authorizing the use of trust assets for the Gen Z beneficiary to start a business or seek training on proper business practices. For a Gen Z beneficiary focused on accumulating independent wealth, the trust could authorize the retention of advisors. The trust can be drafted to support a Gen Z beneficiary’s career choice, even opportunities that may not be financially lucrative, by including an income matching provision. If the chosen profession does not provide sufficient wages, the trust can authorize payment of expenses without consideration of other resources.
Family entities—such as family limited partnerships and limited liability companies – are often created to further asset protection and tax planning goals. They can also educate the younger generations, including Gen Z, about responsible asset stewardship and your financial values. The governing agreements for these entities will allow you to establish the rights of the owners, provide rules on distributions, and restrict the transfer of ownership interests. They provide a vehicle for Gen Z to learn how to manage investments and the entities an investment in Gen Z’s business pursuits.
If you are charitably inclined, you can both support your favorite causes and involve members of Gen Z through vehicles such as a donor advised fund (DAF) or private foundations. Both vehicles allow you to devote assets to supporting nonprofits that further your desired charitable purposes and engage in income tax planning. The DAF is simple to administer, allowing you to recommend both investments and charities to which to donate, while the more complex private foundation allows you more control and involvement as to the use of the assets. Both are designed to continue beyond your life, allowing you to name Gen Z family members as the successor advisor.
Overall, if you intend for your assets to benefit multiple generations, including Gen Z, you may wish to incorporate their goals and needs in your estate plan. By doing so, your goals may be more effectively achieved.
Jennifer Davis is an officer in the Trusts & Estates practice group and co-leader of the Closely Held Business/Private Client industry group at Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale P.C. Chloe Cummings is an associate in Greensfelder’s Trusts & Estates group. Greensfelder is a full-service law firm with offices in St. Louis, Clayton, Southern Illinois and Chicago. Learn more about the firm at greensfelder.com.
This article has been prepared by Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale, P.C. for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an opinion of counsel. Each legal problem is different, and you should not act on any of the information contained herein without first consulting legal counsel. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.