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Millennials and Estate Planning: Trust & Will’s Annual Report [Updated 2024]

Trust & Will explores specific insights and behaviors of the millennial generation when it comes to estate planning. Learn more or download the full report here!

Millennials are now the largest living generation in the US, making up 22% of the population. Collectively, they’ve lived through several world-altering events that have shaped their generational experience: 9/11, the 2008 financial crash, and now, the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But despite all of this instability — or perhaps because of it — millennials have become adaptable planners. They’re generally better than previous generations at setting and achieving personal and financial goals, harnessing the power of technology in the process. Now, as they are buying homes, starting families, and caring for aging parents, they are planning further into the future.

Here at Trust & Will, understanding the nuances of estate planning and what it means for individuals, couples and families is important to us. Each year, we analyze data from thousands of individuals aged 25 to 44 in a proprietary study to explore specific insights and behaviors of the millennial generation when it comes to estate planning. 

Additionally, we survey an additional subsect of individuals aged 25 to 44 to ask them about the process of creating their Estate Plans. We plan on revisiting this data every year to see how trends and behaviors among millennials change over time, so check back here for updates!

Keep reading for exclusive insight into the findings of our annual studies and learn where you can download the full reports. 

2024 Key Insights

The American economy may be recovering after the pandemic, but many people struggle to feel this bounce-back in their personal and financial lives. Millennials, who make up the largest share of the workforce, continue to face significant obstacles to achieving financial stability compared with previous generations at their age. Some of this is a legacy of their earlier years— many graduating college into the 2008 global financial crisis, and a decade and a half later, working and living through a global pandemic. As they move into new life stages, Millennials are becoming the ‘sandwich generation’ that now encounters new financial burdens, like both childcare and eldercare, that cost more than ever.

Many Millennials want to buy property, but it’s more difficult than ever with sky-high home prices, low inventory, and continually rising interest rates. All of these pressures, surveys show, are making the generation extremely stressed. A great indication of this is just how high Millennials price their potential happiness: they say it would take $525,000 a year for them to be happy, which is almost double the average. Or, for those on the older end of the cohort, they do not see the stability they expected as they enter middle age, saying that they “can’t afford to have a midlife crisis” akin to that of previous generations.

The future may look different for Millennials than it did for their parents’, whose path was more stable and predictable. But that makes it all the more important to talk about financial planning —including its end-of-life element. According to our survey, Millennials are thinking about estate planning, fully aware of just how important it is for their families’ futures. But few Millennials have any sort of estate plan in place.

  • 62% of millennials don’t have a Will or Trust; leaving only 36% prepared for the future.

  • 34% of Millennials do not know whether their parents have an estate plan 

  • Surprisingly 33% of Gen Z have an estate plan, catching up with older cohorts 

  • 83% of Millennial pet owners assigned a guardian specifically for their pets, up from 71% the year prior.  

  • Only 58% of Millennials have discussed estate planning with older generations in their family, including when they were growing up

  • 56% of Gen Z and 39% of Millennials do not want their families to have access to their emails, direct messages, and texts after they’re gone

2023 Findings and Recap

In today's economic climate, Millennials are facing unique challenges when it comes to building wealth and planning for the future. Our recent survey reveals some fascinating insights into the financial mindset of this generation. From their attitudes towards inheritance and charity to their views on digital legacy, these findings provide a glimpse into the financial habits and priorities of Millennials.

  • 78% percent of Millennials said that building multigenerational wealth is essential to them, whereas only 45% of older generations said it was important 

  • More than half of Millennials expect to receive an inheritance in their lifetime, but very few (11.5%) said they rely on an inheritance as part of their financial planning

  • The lower their net worth, the more likely Millennials were to leave money to charity: 67% of those with net worths $50,000 or less chose to do so, compared to 10% of Millennials overall

  • 74% of Millennials appointed a digital executor in their estate plans to handle their online affairs and social media accounts  

  • Millennials are 29% more likely than older cohorts to want their emails, direct messages, and texts kept private from their family

For more insights and to download a complete copy of the report, click here.

2022 Findings and Recap 

Millennials are all grown up. Data shows that they are thinking ahead as their lives become more established. Major life events like having a child, buying a home, or experiencing a death in the family are the most common reasons why they complete a Will or Trust. Our data also revealed that millennials prioritize their own wishes and preferences over tradition, with nearly a quarter of them designating non-family members as Trustees, Guardians, or Beneficiaries of their estates, and many of them moving away from conventional end-of-life arrangements like funerals and burials. 

Close to 22% of those surveyed are also members of the “sandwich generation,” meaning they act as caretakers to their young children and their aging parents. With all the extra responsibility, it comes as no surprise that they are thinking about what might happen down the line. 

Many people put off creating an Estate Plan, and the emotional toll of thinking about end-of-life plans can be a huge factor in this procrastination. When asked how they felt before creating their documents, the most common descriptors millennials used were “overwhelmed,” and “anxious.” After filling out their documents, however, a vast majority of those surveyed reported feeling better: “relieved,” and “accomplished” were the two top emotions from the group. 

Some additional key insights from 2022's study:

  • 34% of millennials report that having a child prompted them to create a Trust or Will

  • 22% are part of the sandwich generation, caring for both their children and their parents

  • 57% want to receive end-of-life care only if benefits outweigh the burdens

  • 77% of pet owners designated someone to be a pet guardian

For more findings and to download a complete copy of the report, click here.

2021 Findings and Recap 

With 2020 being one of the most unprecedented years in history — a global pandemic, a presidential election, and a battle for social justice — both Americans and American businesses have been impacted in a number of ways. So we examined the estate planning industry to discover whether or not Covid-19 and today’s political climate has affected consumer behavior, specifically that of millennials. 

Has Covid-19 caused millennials to prioritize creating their Wills or Trusts at a higher rate due to the uncertainty surrounding their health? Have millennials chosen to leave gifts to charities they care about due to the social change taking place? How are millennials planning for their end-of-life? Here are a few key insights from the report:

  • 17% of millennials stated that “2020/The Pandemic” was the reason they decided to create their Estate Plans. 

  • 46% of millennials took less than a year to complete their Estate plans from the first time they thought about doing so.

  • 78% of millennials appointed a Pet Guardian for their pets.

  • 26% of millennials specified wanting to donate their organs.

For more findings and to download a complete copy of the report, click here.

Millennials Are Prioritizing Estate Planning, so Should You

According to the data, some of the top reasons millennials seem to be prioritizing their estate planning is so that they can distribute their assets, plan their legacy, give back to charities they care about, and specify their end-of-life and final arrangement wishes. 

As emerging trends and technologies rise, we predict continuing to see interesting decisions being made by millennials when it comes to their finances and estates. We'll continue to track the data, so check back here for annual updates.

Have you thought about planning for your future by establishing a Will? Does your current Estate Plan need an upgrade? Take one out of the millennials' book, no matter your age– if you're over the age of 18, it's probably a good idea to start thinking about estate planning. There can be a lot of understandable fears behind the process and reasons to put it off, but it's something you'll need to do eventually, so why wait?

Our goal here at Trust & Will is to remove that uncertainty and help people prepare for the unexpected, educating people not only on the importance of estate planning, but topics surrounding financial literacy and end-of-life resources. Find the resources and help you need to create a fully customized, legally valid Estate Plan online in just 20 minutes. Not sure where to start? Take our free quiz to help you get started.

Have a question we didn't answer? Browse more topics in our Learn Center or chat with a live member success representative today.

Read full 2024 report