The generation gap is a common theme in Western pop culture. Music, books, movies, and social media are full of references to intergenerational discord. In recent years, the so-called millennial generation has been the target of choice. Although there is some disagreement as to when generation X ends and the millennial generation begins, the millennial label is generally affixed to those born between 1980 and 2000, i.e. today’s 17 to 37 year olds. Millennials are routinely derided for their alleged laziness, need for instant gratification and praise, and disinterest in achieving the milestones that have traditionally marked adulthood. This latter generalization, that millennials are somehow shirking from adulthood, has resulted in the emergence of the concept of “adulting”—a concept that seems to have been equally embraced and rejected by millennials themselves.
Oxford University Press defines “adulting” as “[t]he practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks.” Merriam-Webster has “adulting” on its radar, yet hasn’t committed to providing it with a formal entry. In the Twitterverse, the hashtag #adulting is used both to facetiously mock and earnestly lament various Twitter users’ achievement of adult milestones. So, what does any of this have to do with estate planning?
Much ink has been spilled about the estate planning needs of baby boomers and their parents, as boomers are primed to inherit the biggest transfer of wealth in Canadian history. The needs of millennials, on the other hand, seem to have been overlooked, likely in part due to the misconception they are uninterested in or have deliberately opted to postpone the achievement of traditional milestones, such as buying property, getting married, and having children. The achievement of these traditional milestones by other generations have, in the past, typically triggered the estate planning process. This indifference to millennials’ estate planning needs is unfortunate, in part, because millennials now make up approximately 34.9% of the Canadian population.
According to a July 12, 2017 release from Statistics Canada, the average life expectancy at birth for Canadians is now 81.7 years, with 79% of deaths occurring at or after 65 years of age. This means, if all goes well, the average millennial has another 44.7 to 64.7 years to live (or at least a decent chance of making it to age 65). This is a pretty good chunk of time to accumulate wealth and acquire traditional assets, e.g. real property, money, and jewellery, and non-traditional digital assets, e.g. email accounts, digital music, loyalty program points, social media accounts, digital images, and domain registrations. Millennials will have a digital footprint unlike any generation before and estate planning professionals will have to continue to come up with creative solutions to protect these digital assets for their clients.
A longer life means more opportunity for millennials to have multiple marriages or common-law partnerships, blended families, and alternative family structures, which could result in complex and novel dependants’ support arrangements. A longer life also means an increased potential for major life transitions like illnesses and career changes; as well as added exposure to future tax and succession law amendments. As such, millennials should expect to revisit their estate plans at key times over the coming years. Savvy and optimistic millennials should consider taking steps now to ensure they have the appropriate legal documents in place, including powers of attorney and wills, to protect their digital assets—regardless of whether they buy into the concept of adulting.
 Based on Statistics Canada’s population estimates for July 1, 2016, online: http://www5.statcan.gc.ca/cansim/a26?lang=eng&retrLang=eng&id=0510001&pattern=&csid.
 “Mortality: Overview, 2012 and 2013” (12 July 2017), online: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/170712/dq170712b-eng.pdf.