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127: Understanding Multigenerational Estate Planning Part 2

Welcome back! In our last episode of Absolute Trust Talk, we were joined by expert psychotherapist and certified coach Tess Brigham, MFT, BCC, to discuss the differences between generations and, more specifically, examine the unique dynamics between Baby Boomer parents and Millennial children.

In this episode, we continue our conversation with Tess, focusing on the interactions between Gen X parents and Gen Z children. These two generations are very interesting as Gen Xers were heavily influenced by events like the Persian Gulf War, the women’s movement, and high divorce rates. As Tess points out, this generation is a very “figure it out on your own” group. Whereas Gen Zers are true digital natives and have no real concept of life before technology. We hope you will listen in as we talk about how these generations’ unique experiences shaped their approach to estate planning. Plus, we share some special insights from real client stories!

Time-stamped Show Notes:

0:00 Introduction

1:19 To kick off the episode, Tess gives us a little background refresher on what types of events and movements had an impact on these two generations.

7:30 One way the younger generations differ from the older ones, in terms of estate planning, is how they consider the possibility of divorce and whether they want to burden their children with responsibility. Listen in to learn more!

10:55 We’re likely all familiar with the stereotype that the oldest daughter always gets the responsibility of taking care of her parents, but will this continue with the newer generations?

14:05 At the end of the day, women are biologically and evolutionarily designed to care for family, so perhaps we won’t see a change in the oldest-daughter-caretaker stereotype after all. Only time will tell!

15:29 As we wrap up the show, we highlight why it’s important to analyze how these heavy conversations play out among generations.


Hello and welcome to Absolute Trust Talk. I’m Kirsten Howe here with Madison Gunn, my co-host, and as we promised you last time, we still are continuing our conversation with Tess Brigham, the very skilled and experienced psychotherapist who is here to talk to us about estate planning with multiple generations and all the different things that that means. Tess, welcome back. We are so delighted and honored to have two chances to talk to you. Thank you so much. Thanks for having me. You are very welcome.

So, just as a recap, last time we talked about the different generations and how they are not just distinguished by the year in which they were born but largely distinguished by what was happening in the world around them during their formative years and attitudes around what was happening around them, attitudes around parenting, all of those things. We talked a little bit about estate planning from a perspective of a Baby Boomer parent and a Millennial child.

Let’s look at some of the things we’ve talked about a little bit – another parent-child pair. This one is a little more up your alley, personally. It’s the Gen X parent and the Gen Z child. So talk briefly about the attributes of those two generations since we talked about it last time, but let’s give a little refresher on those two generations.

No, sure. So, Gen X, primarily born between 1965 and 1980, and this generation was heavily influenced by the AIDS crisis, by the Persian Gulf War, by the high divorce rates, by the women’s movement  – it affected, obviously, Baby Boomers, and then so what happened for their kids was a lot of women, there were more divorces and a lot of women were going back to school. And so I’m part of that generation. We’re very much of this generation of, you know, got ourselves home, latchkey kids, figured things out on our own. And we are sort of made fun of for being like just the, you know, “Nobody cares, we don’t care we’ll just do our thing,” kind of attitude.

Gen Zers are a little bit – they are very different. They were born between 1997 and 2012. And so these young people, they are true digital natives. They have no concept of the world before smartphones, before technology, before the internet, before any of those things. And they’ve been heavily influenced by the pandemic. I think it’s gonna be very interesting to see 10, 15 years from now, the impact of the pandemic on this generation. But they’ve also been heavily influenced by social media and just having technology and having information at their fingertips. And I think that this part’s really important because I think we forget that information is very, very powerful. And I think the older generations, we think information is much more powerful than it really is. And we’re always shocked when these younger people come in and they’re like, “Well, I already figured all this out.” It’s all on the web. Right. Like, “I know it already.”

So with these two generations, you know, again, I talked about in the last episode about how as Baby Boomers were the first generation that said, “You know, I really want to have less kids. I want to focus on my kids more.” And that was the same thing. Gen X took that on as well. “We also want to have less kids. We don’t want to, you know, we want to be able to focus on our kids,” and I think that our own experiences of, not necessarily feeling like we were completely neglected, but, you know, my sister and I do this podcast together and we grew up in Northern California in a small town called Ukiah.

And the funniest thing about Ukiah is Ukiah had so many kidnappings. And I grew up at a time, if you remember Steven Stayner – that was Ukiah. Like when I was a kid that boy, the second boy – I always get his name wrong – but the second boy who he, the perpetrator, the boy helped. Yes. So Steven Stayner helped free a little boy. I was about that little boy’s age and this was talked about like, you know, regularly. So I think we have all these memories of being traumatized and a little bit like there were no trigger warnings about being traumatized as kids.

So we tend to be a little bit overprotective of our kids. We know all the things that are going to happen and that coupled with all the information that’s out there makes the younger generations much more risk-averse. And so I think for us, it’s been a combination of what happened in our own childhoods. It’s heavily influenced us, right? Why do we need sleepovers? Every time you hear about a sleepover, it seems to be a disaster, right? Or someone’s being, you know. So it’s that, coupled with the fact that we have a tremendous amount of information at our fingertips that is very overwhelming. So I do think that both of these generations, we tend to be a little more anxious.

Well, and Gen Z is coming home talking about the drills they’re having at school. Oh, sure. – You know, I mean, I think for me personally, I was in school when Columbine happened and we, I barely had one. They barely just had started talking about maybe having drills. By the time I got out of high school, we didn’t have that. And now they’re like teaching kids to fight back. – Yeah, what do you do when there’s a shooter in the building? – Yeah, like teaching a five-year-old what to do. You know, it’s like, “What, excuse me?” You know, so they’re teaching that fear of response, that little PTSD and just those drills alone is going to. Go home tell the parents.

Yeah, well, and I also think that the amount of information that people take in, right? That there was such this rebellion people felt, like my parents, I don’t know how you felt Kirsten but like people people of older generations felt like their parents weren’t listening to them or they didn’t want to hear what I had to say or they didn’t share anything with me. They didn’t sit down and have the sex talk. They didn’t talk to me about drugs. They didn’t do any of that, so as you know, each generation has been like, “I want to be more honest with my kids, I want to be more open.” So the openness of Gen Xers coupled with the vast amount of information, in some ways tt’s sort of backfired a little bit because it’s like the younger people, they have too much information and they probably don’t need to know everything that they know. You don’t need to know this 24-hour news cycle. You know, this is crazy. We just make it seem like you know, things are disastrous all the time. Because they just have to keep talking about the same story in 20 different ways.

What is it, that they’re doing commercials now for First 5 California about toxic stress? Oh, interesting. I was like, “I identify with that.” Why is this for First 5 Children? I identify with that. Because it is like that if, you know, you get sucked in when there’s some active shooter situation, and somewhere across the country it’s some national disaster. You’re watching that 24-hour news cycle. Yeah, awful. So you’re sucked in and the question then becomes, right, are Gen Zers, are they risk-averse because our the parents have coddled them, or are they risk-averse because they see so much of this in their faces all the time? That’s the question.

And parents, it’s really important for parents not to feel like, not to be ashamed, not to feel like, “I’ve done this terrible thing,” or “I’m failing in some way, shape, or form.” I think there’s so much pressure on parents, especially mothers, to be perfect all the time and nail things and make sure that they have these perfect children. And then we have these situations like the pandemic, where kids get taken out of the quote-unquote “norm,” and then parents feel like, “Oh, what have I done wrong? Are my kids broken or whatever it is?” And it’s like, “Well, no, that’s not true. “It’s just that now, you know, the path to becoming an adult looks very different than it was 20 years ago, 40 years ago.

You know, the one thing, if we’re thinking about estate planning – and it’s not all that obvious all the time – but I do sort of notice that when I have that conversation with my younger parents – and I’m thinking they are probably Gen X – not real young, not millennial, but Gen X – they do – and maybe the boomers too – they do seem to be more concerned about things like, “Well, if my children get divorced, how do I protect things for them,” whereas my older parents, I think they’re just like, “It’ll be fine, just let them have the money.” They don’t feel as protective in that way. And I think that Tess, what you’ve been saying, you know, that huge increase in the rates of divorce during your years probably contributed to that.

They’re also shying away from having their kids be administering their estate after they pass away. They’re also like, “I don’t want to burden them with this big job.” As Gen X and even Boomers are administering their parents’ estates, they’re like, “This is for the birds. I don’t want my kids to deal with this.” Yeah, they’re shying away from that as well because they’re like, “Oh I don’t want my children to have to do this,” or, “This is too big of a problem.” They’re realizing that it’s too much for them, and whether that’s a coddling or just a realization that it’s burden, you know…

Yeah, well, I think that very much has to do with with parenting and how parents see their roles because it used to be, you know – and I’ve talked to so many audiences, and I’ll hear this from Baby Boomers where they will say, “I was told by my parents life is hard. Suck it up. Here you go.” There was this attitude of, “I went through it. I dealt with it. Now you have to deal with it. This is life.” And as the generations have gotten older, for example, you know, my parents were divorced and my father remarried very quickly and that impacted my life. And the thing was that, you know, I don’t think that my father really, he didn’t think that much about how it would impact us. But my sister and I were highly aware of, “This is how it impacted us.” So then we turn to our kids, we can see all the things that impacted us, have hurt us and derailed us and made our lives hard. And so in some ways, I’m not saying it’s better or worse, I’m just saying that we tend to want to protect our kids. Like, “Oh my God, I took care of my parents’ estate, so I don’t want to do that to my kid.”

And then that’s just the attitude of “What is life all about?” Everyone’s trying to break a cycle. Yes. Like in their mind. Well, and sort of related to that is that I do feel as though maybe the younger parents are more amenable to other suggestions, you know, like, “Let’s protect the inheritance,” but also things like, “Well, I don’t want them to have to do this job because I’m afraid about it affecting the sibling relationships. You know, I don’t want to have one child be the trustee and now everybody’s mad at that child.” I think my younger-ish parents, not in the Silent Generation, not the older Baby Boomers, but the younger ones are more in tune to that. Like, “That’s part of my legacy too, is that I leave behind an intact family.” And they are maybe more open to suggestions about “Well we could have a professional do this job.” It doesn’t have to be one of the kids. It’s not just duty over, family. It’s, yeah, you’re the oldest child. It’s your job. Right. Just suck it up. Yeah, yeah, that’s how it’s supposed to be.

Yeah, I also, sort of related to what we’ve been talking about is maybe a little bit of the reverse in which the child is taking responsibility or caring for their elderly parents, and they could be boomers, they could be Gen X children, now taking responsibility for their elderly parents. And of course, I probably don’t need to say this, but the classic scenario is it’s the oldest daughter. The oldest daughter is doing all the work, taking care of the parents, not always, but often enough that it’s probably an accurate stereotype. And I’m wondering if the experiences, or are they going to be able to take responsibility for their elderly parents, or are they going to be able to take responsibility the way younger generations were raised or are being raised might affect that stereotype. Yeah.

Well, I mean, it is interesting because you’re absolutely right. I mean, unfortunately, the oldest female has always had that responsibility of, you know, mothering and being the second mother. I mean, it will be interesting to see because people have less and less kids. So there’s less of those dynamics that people have to to negotiate. But yeah, I think that for some people, there’s that feeling of what is fair. And, you know, I think that as the generations have gone along, as we – as Madison said – as we tried to like figure out “What are the cycles,” you know, “How do we break the cycle?” some of this is, if you felt like things were unfair in your family, then you’re going to be hyperaware of what is fair. So a lot of these things are about the generation, it’s about when the time in which you were born and all of that. But there’s also, what are the things that happen in your family and how did you interpret those things and how did that impact you?

But I do think that it’ll be interesting to see if it still lands to the oldest female or if, as the generations go along, they do change it up a bit. I mean I’m thinking about maybe starting with Millennials, the responsibilities related to childcare and, you know, just running a household – they seem to be doing a better job or at least trying at being more conscious about making it more equitable so that all of the work of the household doesn’t land on the mother, which was traditional, because traditionally the mother didn’t work. And so that made sense. But now most women do work. So it doesn’t necessarily make sense. And just maybe having that more even distribution might result in the sons stepping up and taking care of their own parents instead of the daughter-in-law taking care of the son’s parents, which we see that a lot too.

You know, if you don’t have an oldest daughter, well, then you’re going to marry one, and she’s going to be your oldest daughter. So maybe a better equitable division of labor over long-term will eventually equate to a better equitable division of emotional labor. Yes. Yes. Over the generations. Well, that would be nice too. Yes. That would be good. One can only hope.

And, but the problem is that, you know, what we know about men and women and being a to study brain sciences is that some of this stuff is a bit – yes, it’s generational, but it’s innate. It’s evolutionary. Women are always going to be more with the emotional labor. And I think that’s why it falls to the oldest daughter of the women, because they’re the ones thinking about these things. I just feel like a lot of the men, it’s not meant to be, they don’t intend to be, but they’re just not thinking about how this is impacting the family, ’cause that’s what we’re constantly thinking about, right? It’s like, “How does all this impact other people?” Yeah, I think that’s definitely what I’m talking about. true. I mean, we’ve evolved over many, many hundreds of thousands of years to be the way we are. And we can’t undo that in a couple of generations. We can talk about it, we can try real hard. Definitely, that happens more as generations do more talking. Yes, this is what they need, and this is not happening, and we need to make some changes. So yeah, it’ll be very interesting to watch who’s taking care of Madison when she’s… an elderly parent. Yeah, that’s funny. Madison and you’re eldest. Yeah.

Okay, Tess, thank you so much for your time here today and your expertise. This has been really interesting for us. I’m glad, thank you so much for having me, I appreciate it! And I love hearing your stories and sort of what your experiences are because it’s a very different flavor than what I get in my, you know, in my world.- Yeah. And it is really interesting to hear these stories of how people – because these are heavy-duty conversations that you’re having, right, like how do people, how you know when it’s time to think about dying? Like how do people respond or look at it? Yeah that’s fascinating. Yeah ours tends to be a more top-down view and yours is maybe more bottom-up view. Your clients tend to be the younger and mine tend to be the older and so I think that’s why it’s really valuable to have this conversation with you. Madison, thank you, and of course our guest today has been Tess Brigham. We’re so grateful to have her here and we look forward to connecting with you next time.

Resources Related to This Episode:

  • A Will is Not Enough – Securing Your Legacy with Estate Planning Life can change in an instant. A will is not enough to be prepared. Get free access to our actionable E-book Guidebook #1 and start protecting your legacy today. https://absolutetrustcounsel.com/guidebooks/
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  • Get our free introductory guide to the most used estate planning tool, family trusts, and understand how we plan to help protect your family. Guidebook #3: https://absolutetrustcounsel.com/guidebooks/
  • Absolute Trust Counsel would love to offer access to our Incapacity Planning resource page: https://AbsoluteTrustCounsel.com/Incapacity-Planning/. We’ve collected our top planning information all in one place so listeners can find videos, guidebooks, blog posts, and a host of information with tips and strategies on implementing, planning, and protecting themselves and their loved ones.
  • We’re pleased to provide a library of e-books to address common estate planning questions and concerns in practical, easy-to-understand language. https://AbsoluteTrustCounsel.com/Resources/.
  • ​ASK KIRSTEN: If you’d like Kirsten to answer your question on the air, please email her at Info@AbsoluteTrustCounsel.com.

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