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Some important estate planning considerations for women

There is absolutely no disputing that virtually everyone needs to take steps to make sure that they have an estate plan in place. However, some experts have taken things one step further and suggested that the need for women to take this step is perhaps even more important.

While it may be tempting to dismiss this argument, consider first that this doesn't mean that these experts are suggesting that there are different -- and perhaps more effective -- estate planning tools available to women. Rather, the suggestion is based on some simple realities that can stand to make a real difference from an estate planning perspective, such as women are more likely to outlive their spouses and are more likely to be custodial parents.  

What then are some of the unique and pressing estate planning considerations facing women today? 

  • Single women without children: Along with deciding how they want their assets to be divided (family, friends, charitable endeavors, etc.), women in this situation will want to consider appointing a designated person to make financial and legal decisions on their behalf in the event of their incapacity (i.e., executing a durable power of attorney).
  • Married women with children: Experts indicate that the two biggest estate planning concerns facing women in this situation are 1) appointing a guardian for their children and 2) making arrangements for income replacement in the event of their spouse's demise (i.e., life insurance).
  • Women who are likely to remarry: Women who are in possession of significant assets when they remarry will want to consider whether they want all of their assets to go to their children or are comfortable with some of these assets potentially going to their new spouse. Experts indicate that if they prefer the former option, a trust funded and created in the names of their children prior to entering the marriage may be one viable option.
  • Women who are widowed: Experts indicate that the two biggest estate planning concerns facing women in this situation are 1) ensuring that their estate plan has been updated to reflect the death of their spouse and 2) examining whether their financial planning meets their long-term objectives.

At a minimum, the experts urge all women to execute the following estate planning documents: simple will, living will, durable power of attorney and guardianship designation (if necessary). They also urge women to make sure their beneficiary designations are up to date.

No matter who you are or your situation, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about how estate planning can give you peace of mind about the future.

Source: The Wall Street Journal Market Watch, "How women can make estate planning easier," Andrea Coombes, May 8, 2014

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