For most people, the primary purpose of creating an estate plan is to ensure that their estate is distributed according to their wishes, address the special needs of their beneficiaries, and appoint agents that will have the legal authority to manage their finances and make health decisions in the event of incapacity during their lifetime. For today’s women, creating an estate plan takes on heightened importance. Let’s look at some of the reasons.
Although today more women have decided to forego the tradition of marriage, they may have a life partner that they want to protect and inherit from their estate. But unless they execute a Will or Trust during their lifetime that directs assets to be distributed to their partner, they will not receive anything from the estate and will not have the legal authority to handle matters related to the administration of the estate. Absent a Will or Trust, the assets will be distributed in accordance with state intestate succession laws, and the court will decide and appoint the administrator of their estate. An outcome that can be easily avoided with proper planning.
For married women, there is another incentive to have an estate plan in place and to take an active role in the decision-making process. The reality is that women live up to 5 years longer than men and the divorce rates for women over 50 are rising. Taking that into consideration, it is expected that most women will be single at some point in their lives and will have sole responsibility for their finances.
Women Manage More Wealth Today
Today, women manage more wealth than ever before. This is largely due to the shift in the workplace over the past 5 decades and the growing rise of women starting their own businesses and overseeing and making financial decisions for large corporations. In addition, they have more personal wealth than ever before.
Despite this increase in wealth, a large percentage of women do not have an estate plan. Some of the reasons may be related to being inundated with to-dos for others while balancing career demands and unable to set aside time for themselves. But most women have assets that they want to safeguard. By creating a Will or revocable Living Trust, they will have the opportunity to address tax liability, the special needs of their beneficiaries, the division of their estate, and appoint the person that will have the authority to administer their estate when they are gone. While a properly executed power of attorney allows women to take ownership of their finances by designating a person to manage their finances in case of a sudden onset of incapacity during their lifetime.
Women Who Have Young Children, Elderly Parents, Or Are Caregivers
According to the U.S. Administration on Aging, 65 percent of older persons with long-term care need to rely on family and friends to help. An estimated 66 percent of caregivers are women. Whether you care for your elderly parents, young children, or a special needs sibling, you’ll want to make sure that they will continue to be supported if you are unable to support them in the future. A Will enables women with young children to name guardians.
However, if you wish to reduce the need for court intervention you may want to consider creating a Trust to pass down any inheritance you leave behind to a minor child. The Trust will allow you to appoint a Trustee to manage the Trust assets and stagger the distribution of assets when your child is old enough to inherit directly from the Trust.
For women who may have a child with special needs, a Special Needs Trust can be created to allow you to continue to provide for your child without jeopardizing much-needed government benefits during your lifetime and protect their inheritance when you are gone. It offers the peace of mind that comes with knowing your child will be well cared for.
In addition, Trust planning gives single or married women who support spouses or other family members an opportunity to outline the mental, physical, or spiritual care that they wish to uphold in their absence. This might include surgeries, assisted living, health facilities, and other related resources.
Have A Life Partner Or Are Estranged From Your Family
We’ve all heard the horror stories of families in estate battles because a loved one did not clearly define their health care and end-of-life decisions. For women who have life partners, but are not married, it is especially important to get started on a living will and powers of attorney— otherwise, your life partner will not get to make any decisions about your money or care.
Without a health proxy or living will, health care providers typically turn to the family or the courts to appoint someone to make important decisions. These types of cases are complicated and often leave women who are physically or emotionally distanced from family or have complicated relationships vulnerable.
To prevent a court from deciding who will make decisions for you and/or control your assets during a period of incapacity, you may wish to create a durable power of attorney or a revocable living Trust along with a Living Will. A durable power of attorney lets you appoint an agent to whom you grant the authority to act on your behalf during your incapacity. A revocable living Trust allows you to appoint a successor Trustee who will step in and take over control of the Trust assets upon your incapacity without the need for court approval.
If you have strong feelings about end-of-life medical treatment, for example, executing a Living Will lets you make decisions about what type of treatment you wish to receive now, while you are able to make decisions. And a health care proxy in New York allows you to appoint someone to make health care decisions for you if you cannot make them yourself.
Our Attorney at Amato Law, PLLC has the experience and expertise to assist women that wish to create a customized estate plan to address their unique circumstances and find practical solutions. To learn more about how we can help, contact our office at (212) 355-5255 or use our contact form.