All posts by Bryan Mitchell

About Bryan Mitchell

Bryan Mitchell is a solicitor of the Supreme Court of Queensland, holds a Bachelor of Commerce and a Bachelor of Laws from The University of Queensland and a Master of Laws from QUT. Bryan is well respected within Queensland’s legal community and by satisfied clients for his expertise in wills and estates.

Milennials: Why You Need To Consider Estate Planning

Estate planning for millennials? Surely that’s the last thing that generation is thinking about. Jokes and memes about millennials abound online. When a meme about the three biggest millennial fears is all about being connected here and now, it’s no wonder that estate planning is not a high priority for people in their 20’s and 30’s. This is a generation that (for the most part) have not yet accumulated a significant asset pool like the generations proceeding them. They’ve got plenty of time. They’re taking their time getting married and having kids and therefore they’re taking their time thinking about estate planning, according to a Bloomberg report.

USA Today recently reported that Millennials — those born roughly between 1980-2000 — would rather enjoy the present than prepare for the future. Millennials are enjoying connecting with the here and now, not worrying about who will make decisions for them if they become incapacitated. An enduring power of attorney seems like a very distant form to complete. 31 year-old Usman Ahmad echoes the sentiments of many a Millennial when explaining his decision to not buy life insurance: “I’m not planning on dying anytime soon,” he says. “So it’s a waste of money.”

But we don’t get to choose when we die. The millennial generation are no different to the generations that have come before and the ones that will follow after. Death comes to us all, and tragically young for some people.

While many of us will get to live long lives, there are some who will die tomorrow (including millennials) that will upset the natural order of death. The unnatural order of death is when children die before their parents or when nieces and nephews die before their aunts and uncles. It just doesn’t seem right and yet it is inescapable in a world that contains sickness and tragedy.

Not everything is rosy for millennials. Their generation face serious health threats, including high rates of suicide, homicide, motor vehicle accidents, and substance abuse. Between 1999 and 2004, nearly nine percent of 20- to 29-year-olds reported having experienced major depression, generalized anxiety disorder or panic disorder in the past year. In particular, young women are nearly twice as likely (11 percent) to report these symptoms than are young men (6 percent). Motor vehicle accidents remain the leading cause of death for young adults ages 15-29, followed by homicide and suicide. In fact, seven out of 10 deaths for those aged 10-24 in 2005 were the result of these three killers.

Just over 1 in 4 of today’s 20 year-olds will become disabled before they retire. According to CDA’s 2013 Long-Term Disability Claims Review, the leading causes of long-term disability include musculoskeletal/connective tissue disorders, disorders of the nervous system and cardiovascular disorders. Approximately 90% of disabilities are caused by illnesses rather than accidents.

Why Should Millennials do Estate Planning?
You are worth something. Not just assets and life insurance if you have them, but your life is meaningful. Estate planning is not just about writing a will to pass on your stuff. Estate planning is like a love letter to those who are important to you. Estate planning does mean something now – it is not just for later on. A good estate lawyer will encourage you to discuss and share your estate plans with your loved ones. While your sister may not be massively excited that you are going to leave her your old, beat-up VW beetle, she will understand that you have included her in your will and therefore your head and heart.

But remember – many young Australians have a life insurance policy within their superannuation. This could be tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars in your estate! Who will receive it? Your parents or your partner? A binding death nomination is one of the only ways in which you get to decide who should receive this asset.

Good estate planning also includes an advance health directive. Millennials understand that we are living in a time where our chances of having a longer life have been increased because of advances in medical technology and understanding of the body. An advance health directive helps to give us control over what happens to us medically when we are incapacitated in any way. It is a formal way of outlining what you wish for your future health care. It only comes into effect if you lose the capacity to make decisions. Although you cannot account for every medical scenario in this document, you can outline generally what treatment you wish to or don’t wish to receive should you become unable to speak for yourself.

Doing Your Estate Planning Does Not Speed Up the Download of Your Life
Kate Muller is a wills and estates lawyer at Mitchells Solicitors. She says she finds practicing this area of law rewarding. “Sometimes people – especially young people – are reluctant to deal with these issues. It’s probably that they just don’t see the need to do it because they don’t think they’re going to die soon,” she says. “Yet it’s universal that when you sign your will and your estate planning is done, you feel great.”

Writing your will does not make your death imminent, but it does ensure that your assets do go to the people you want to benefit from them. This is particularly important if you have minor children. In a will you can nominate a guardian for your minor children for if both you and the other parent die before they turn 18 years of age, otherwise the court will decide for you. Estate planning allows you to plan for the unexpected as well as the expected. We hope that our children will never need a guardian but burying our heads in the sand will not make it so.

How Financial Planners Can Fight Elder Abuse

As our population continues to age, so we must continue to fight elder abuse. The most common kind of elder abuse is financial abuse, and the good news is that professionals like financial planners can help to identify and fight elder abuse.

Why are the elderly targeted? Their loneliness and isolation make them easy targets. They are vulnerable, in need of a helping hand or someone who will pay them some attention. They’re easy prey for undue influence, trusting of their perpetrators. Maybe dementia is setting in.

How Elder Financial Abuse Occurs
In 2016, Mary Evans was indicted for allegedly stealing more than $400,000 from three elderly men in New York City.

Ms. Evans, 44, approached her targets in neighborhood restaurants, supermarkets or coffee shops, engaging them in a conversation by pretending to recognize them from prior encounters, according to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance. According to the charges, Ms. Evans stole more than $130,000 in cash and goods, including a Mercedes convertible, from a 77-year-old retired transit employee. Her second victim was an 81-year-old, retired church musical director from whom she stole $53,000. She obtained a marriage certificate for herself and her third victim, a 73-year-old retired college professor who suffered from dementia, and withdrew $225,000 from his retirement account.
A study issued last year by True Link Financial, a financial services firm that helps older adults and their families protect themselves from fraud, put the figure at $36.5 billion. Even at that, most experts believe the problem is significantly underreported. Cases often don’t come to light because victims are embarrassed about having allowed themselves to be swindled, or reluctant to point the finger at the perpetrators — often people who are close to them.

How Financial Planners Can Help Fight Elder Abuse
Financial planners are on the front lines of elder financial abuse and are often among the first to spot red flags. Yet they’re not always sure how to respond and they worry about the consequences of taking action.

An InvestmentNews survey of 591 advisers found that 62% have seen or suspected financial abuse of an elderly client at least once. But more than half of those who suspected abuse — 56% — said they didn’t report it.

The trouble for advisers is while they often see hints of exploitation, the hints are often “very fuzzy,” and it’s not within their expertise to figure out if the person sitting in front of them is being victimized, according to Dr. Blum, who provides expert evaluation in cases of undue influence and manipulation tactics. Indeed, 61% of advisers in the InvestmentNews survey said they didn’t report suspected financial abuse of their elderly clients because they “did not have enough evidence.”

In the InvestmentNews survey, 65% of advisers identified a family member as a suspected perpetrator, while 30% pointed to a friend or acquaintance and 30% said it was a caregiver.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch surveyed its advisers last year to identify the most common perpetrators of elder financial abuse and found that 71% cited children of the victim, with 32% flagging other family members and 18% identifying anonymous fraudsters.

Organisations Who Have Introduced Measures To Fight Elder Abuse
In 2010, Wells Fargo started tracking instances of financial exploitation of senior and elderly clients. The number of reported cases rose from about 30 a month in 2010 to 90 to 100 cases in 2014. The increase was in part due to the firm’s focus on training financial planners to spot it. And more than two years ago, Wells Fargo formed a unit within in its compliance department to process reports of suspected fraud from financial planners themselves. The unit has fielded about 2,000 incidents of abuse and frequently brings in adult protective services agencies or financial regulators into the cases.

Merrill Lynch, meanwhile, educates its financial planners on preventing elder abuse and encourages them to acquaint themselves with their elderly clients’ family or close friends so they can turn to someone with any doubts. The company also gives its financial planners an authorization form to get a trusted contact person planners can consult about suspicious activity.

Morgan Stanley has built a website on senior client-specific concerns for its financial planners. It also trains its reps on identifying exploitation and has a protocol for taking up issues affecting senior clients to its legal unit. Meanwhile, smaller wealth management firms are taking similar steps, according to the publication.

Fight Elder Abuse By Watching Out For Scams
Older people are also targeting by scammers they don’t know, and here are the most common common scams and frauds.

• Getting a call or email from the ATO demanding immediate payment to avoid jail or requesting identifying information

• Receiving a phone call from a “computer technician” informing the client of a computer virus that is rapidly spreading and stealing person information. The caller is then able to access the computer and its data.

• Notification that the client has won a huge lottery in a foreign country, but in order to receive the millions they must pay fees, transport or other processing costs upfront.

• Receiving an email or phone call that a grandchild or other relative is stranded in a foreign country without money and passport, or is in a hospital, or was jailed unjustly, along with a plea to send money right away.

• An email from a bank or financial institution that looks legitimate but that comes from an address the client does not recognize, or that has no subject line, especially if it contains a link to click on.

• A “friend” develops a relationship online, offering understanding and love to a lonely client. Before long, the friend begins to request money to help resolve legal or medical issues, or to fund a trip to come meet in person, or any number of other scenarios. Once money is sent the first time, the requests continue endlessly.

Expert lawyers in succession law (wills and estates) are also trained to recognise elder financial abuse, including undue influence. The key is to seek advice as soon as you become aware of the problem so that you can minimise the loss to the older person. Bryan Mitchell is an Accredited Specialist in Succession Law (wills and estates) and takes a keen interest in safeguarding older people.

For your free, 10-minute phone consultation, please contact us today.