There are many stereotypes about “millennials.” The rumour is that we’re narcissistic, irresponsible, and entitled. It can be a difficult pill to swallow. At the age of 31, with a solid job, two university degrees, and a miniscule number of photos that I’ve taken of my own food, I feel like the label just doesn’t fit with how I view myself. However, I do think millennials may have specific challenges around estate planning: we’re too busy and disorganized, death is a long-term problem, and who really cares what happens to our “stuff?”
I didn’t see the point of investing in a lawyer to create a Will. I was too busy establishing a future of home ownership and retirement funds to think about the end of my future and finding the financial means for that. I have a single mother and a partner who get along well with each other and no dependents, unless you count my two cats, both of whom seem to need very little from me emotionally or financially. Everything seemed like it would work out fine if I suddenly died.
However, when I was hired by Blackwood Family Enterprise Services, I was given Willing Wisdom by Tom Deans as a professional development tool. It was a short book (142 pages) with a digestible format involving a conversation between three colleagues.
Upon finishing the book, I was having a millennial-type awakening. My death would not occur in a vacuum. Despite how little I thought my death might impact my loved ones financially or stress-wise (remember, little property ownership and no dependents), I was being narcissistic in assuming it would have no impact on others. I realized that my Will could do more than just dole out my belongings and financial assets. It could be a positive landmark of my life, serving as a legacy.
Deans recognizes that his readers will be short on time and excitement in tackling this daunting issue. He breaks it down into 7 simple questions, speaking about a Will as a process, instead of a document. He insists that the Will become a community affair, including charities, family, and close friends.
I’ll admit that it was difficult to get over the taboo of discussing my personal finances, revealing who got what, and having to awkwardly explain why. I still wanted to hide in the process before realizing that this was exactly why Deans wrote Willing Wisdom. He wanted to challenge readers to push past those uncomfortable and awkward barriers to get to know our family members better. My mother and I have a strong relationship but I realized after reading this book that I didn’t know how she wanted to be remembered or any of the details of her estate. As a result of the book, I began having deep conversations with her about her estate and was surprised at how much I did not know about her last wishes. Now, I will not have to guess at my mother’s desire for her legacy and how she wants to be remembered, nor will my partner have to wonder about mine.
I realize now that I was a “stereotypical” millennial – I was irresponsible with my estate, narcissistic in how my death would affect my loved ones, and entitled with the thought that I had all the time in the world to deal with my death. Instead of leaving this life and my family with confusion and frustration, I can die bestowing them with well-defined wishes and the knowledge that I’ll be remembered through positive acts and memories. With my newfound knowledge, I’ll take on another millennial stereotype and get some instant gratification and relief by creating a clear Will with my friends and family.