A 20-something nephew of mine is passionate about global climate change. “Your generation,” he said to me, “has ignored this global problem that won’t affect you (presumably meaning /Baby-Boomers) so much as it will affect us (meaning Millennials and Generation Z). We’re sick and tired of inaction!”

I don’t take his tirades personally. After all, except for “going green” as far as I’m reasonably able to, I feel powerless to affect the amount of greenhouse gases spewed into the atmosphere by airplane travel, global manufacturing, cattle ranchers and such. Sure, I can install solar panels on my home and not eat a lot of red meat (which I shouldn’t do anyway), but how much will my small efforts reverse melting glaciers?

At least my nephew channels his youthful fire in a positive direction. Young adulthood is odd by nature, nestled between childhood and maturity. Young people begin to experience the frustrations and yearnings of an adult but may lack the experience and wisdom to deal with them.

And it’s not just climate change. The “cause du jour” could be income inequality, health care, acceptance of LGBTQ individuals, immigration reform, or a variety of other maladies we face.

Young people aren’t looking for comfort, rather they’re searching for a meaningful life. They overflow with a mixture of adrenaline and confidence — “I want to change the way the world works.”

Adults, in contrast, burdened with everyday life pressures, may resign themselves to a belief that the world “is the way it is.” We have the knowledge, experience and wisdom but lack the drive. I’m glad that so many young people take up causes.

But sometimes the “political correctness” gets out of hand, so while their causes may be admirable, the methods become self-defeating. We end up with either energy without direction (youth) or direction without energy (adulthood).

Many adults simply throw up their hands, writing a rebellious period off as one that a person will simply outgrow. Young people, meanwhile, often believe that adults have forgotten how to appreciate the very meaning and thrill of life.

Youths are rebellious, while adults view rebellion as an aberration, a youthful exuberance that will fade over mortgage and preschool tuition payments and crushing work deadlines.
After a few decades of non-stop responsibility, however, even adults question the meaning of life. Is this all there is?

I’ll tell you from my recent mid-life health scare I’ve reassessed things. It’s easy to fall into the trap of nurturing our careers through non-stop work and our physical needs with diet and exercise but forgetting to nurture our souls. What’s our purpose? How shall we carry it out?

Thus, the sound of youthful rebellion is the sound of energy crying out, searching for an audience. For adults, the challenge is to help turn that cry into a strong, sure voice. “Yes,” we must tell our young citizens, “take that energy and do try to change the world for the better. Don’t accept the status quo! Don’t tolerate injustice!”

Can we foster this in our estate plans? Surely we can!

There are several methods available to all, from establishing a private foundation to funding a donor advised fund within an existing public or community foundation. As an example, assume that you have a $1 million IRA account that you’d like your family to use to promote good in the world. You consume the IRA during life but then direct it to the foundation upon your death.

If that IRA were cashed out to your children or grandchildren almost half might be lost to federal and state income taxes depending upon the rate of withdrawal and your beneficiaries’ marginal tax brackets. If instead it was left to a qualified charitable entity where your family could direct charitable distributions, very little or none of it would be lost to taxes.

I wrote last week that the baby boomers will leave an astonishing $68 trillion to their loved ones over the next few decades. Imagine how much good in the world even 1% ($680 billion) could accomplish. It’s staggering. I feel a tremendous sense of pride that as a board certified estate planning attorney, I can help my clients feed the souls of their youthful offspring, and reawaken idealistic yearnings of their middle aged children.

As for my nephew and global warming? While I’m not an advocate for global carbon taxation, mainly because I believe the money would be lost to government corruption, I’m largely optimistic that the scales have tipped. There’s now enough money at stake to encourage entrepreneurs and private enterprise to create solutions we haven’t dreamt of yet.

But I’m glad my nephew is vociferously advocating. I encourage young people to continue to hold adults’ feet to the fire! And I also believe that the money will be there to fund solutions to many world problems so that our generation will leave the world a better place than it was when we were born into it.

How will your estate plan nourish your soul and those of your loved ones?

© 2019 Craig R. Hersch. Originally published in the Sanibel Island Sun.