Historically, estate planning has been a “man’s” issue. Back in the day, men incorporated tools in their estate plan intended to “protect” the women in their lives; that protection usually involved having someone else manage the women’s money! Today, more than ever, it is critical women formulate an estate plan which protects their assets and their families. Why? Women tend to live longer than men but earn less during their lives. But women are business owners and professionals, carrying considerable wealth that should be protected.
When a person dies intestate (without a will), their assets are distributed according to state law, with no regard given to the decedent’s wishes. More often than not, women bear the brunt of these effects. Here are a few key points I recommend women consider when they are beginning the process of putting together an estate plan:
Talk to your family. Communicating with adult family members about your estate plan can yield unexpected effects and can also prevent much heartache. Initiating these conversations is intimidating because we are forced to confront our mortality, but they are critical for effective estate planning.
Tackle the hard decisions. No one wants to think about what will happen when they die. You owe it to yourself and your family to make these decisions now while the ability to do so is still in your hands.
Think through disposition of your assets. Many wills just generally divide the estate property between heirs, without regard to potential conflict between beneficiaries. Talk to a professional to ensure your wishes are met while protecting your beneficiaries at the same time.
Plan for liquidity. Many types of financial accounts are frozen immediately after the owner’s death. Estate planning options can be utilized to ensure resources are available upon your death to assist with probate of your estate.
GET IT DONE. Thinking through your estate plan is a great first step, but good intentions mean nothing unless critical estate plan documents are executed. Make it a priority to meet with trusted advisors and take the steps necessary to put your plan in place as soon as feasible. Your family and loved ones will be grateful you did.